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Edm.  Can.  Surmont, 

Vic.  Gen. 
Westmona stern,  die  13  Dccemlris,  1015. 






E.    M.    LAMOND 



Volume  V 

LONDON  '     ' 




"His  most  elaborate  and  systematic  biography  ...  is  not  merely  a  book  to  be 
reckoned  with;  it  is  one  with  which  we  cannot  dispense,  if  only  for  its  minute 
examination  of  Luther's  theological  writings."—  The  Athenceum  (Vol.  I). 

"The  second  volume  of  Dr.  Grisar's  'Life  of  Luther'  is  fully  as  interesting  as  the 
first.    There  is  the  same  minuteness  of  criticism  and  the  same  width  of  survey." 

The  Athenceum  (Vol.  II). 

"  Its  interest  increases.  As  we  see  the  great  Reformer  in  the  thick  of  his  work, 
and  the  heyday  of  his  life,  the  absorbing  attraction  of  his  personality  takes  hold  of 
us  more  and  more  strongly.  His  stupendous  force,  his  amazing  vitality,  his  super- 
human interest  in  life,  impress  themselves  upon  us  with  redoubled  effect.  We  find 
him  the  most  multiform,  the  most  paradoxical  of  men.  .  .  .  The  present  volume, 
which  is  admirably  translated,  deals  rather  with  the  moral,  social,  and  personal  side 
of  Luther's  career  than  with  his  theology."— The  Athenceum  (Vol.  III). 

"  Father  Grisar  has  gained  a  high  reputation  in  this  country  through  the  translation 
of  his  monumental  work  on  the  History  of  Rome  and  the  Popes  in  the  Middle  Ages, 
and  this  first  instalment  of  his  '  Life  of  Luther'  bears  fresh  witness  to  his  unwearied 
industry,  wide  learning,  and  scrupulous  anxiety  to  be  impartial  in  his  judgments  as 
well  as  absolutely  accurate  in  matters  of  fact."— Glasgow  Herald. 

"  This  '  Life  of  Luther '  is  bound  to  become  standard  ...  a  model  of  every  literary, 
critical,  and  scholarly  virtue."— The  Month. 

"Like  its  two  predecessors,  Volume  III  excels  in  the  minute  analysis  not  merely  of 
Luther's  actions,  but  also  of  his  writings ;  indeed,  this  feature  is  the  outstanding 
merit  of  the  author's  patient  labours.  "—The  Irish  Times. 

"  This  third  volume  of  Father  Grisar's  monumental  '  Life '  is  full  of  interest  for  the 
theologian.  And  not  less  for  the  psychologist ;  for  here  more  than  ever  the  author 
allows  himself  to  probe  into  the  mind  and  motives  and  understanding  of  Luther,  so 
as  to  get  at  the  significance  of  his  development."— The  Tablet  (Vol.  III). 

torical  research  owes  a  debt  of  gratitude  to  Father  Grisar  for  the  calm  un- 
UMed  manner  in  which  he  marshals  the  facts  and  opinions  on  Luther  which  his 
deep  erudition  has  gathered."— The  Tablet  (Vol.  IV). 



TEACHING pages  3-164 

1.  Preliminaries.     New  Foundations  of  Morality. 

Difficulties  involved  in  Luther's  standpoint  ;  poverty  of 
human  reason,  power  of  the  devil,  etc.  How  despair  may 
serve  to  excite  humility  .....     pages  3-7 

2.  The  two  Poles  :  The  Law  and  the  Gospel. 

His  merits  in  distinguishing  the  two  ;  what  he  means  by 
"  the  Gospel  "  ;  his  contempt  for  "  the  Law  "  ;  the  Law 
a  mere  gallows         .......   pages  7-14 

3.  Encounter  with  the  Antinomianism  of  Agricola. 

Connection  between  Agricola's  doctrine  and  Luther's. 
Luther's  first  step  against  Agricola ;  the  Disputations  ; 
the  tract  "  Against  the  Antinomians  "  ;  action  of  the  Court ; 
end  of  Agricola  ;  the  reaction  of  the  Antinomian  movement 
on  Luther    ........     pages  15-25 

4.  The    Certainty  of    Salvation     and     its     relation     to 


Psychology  of  Luther's  conception  of  this  certainty  as  the 
very  cause  and  aim  of  true  morality.  Luther's  last  sermons 
at  Eisleben  ;  notable  omissions  in  these  sermons  on  morality  ; 
his  wavering  between  Old  and  New  .  .  .     pages  25-43 

5.  Abasement  of  Practical  Christianity. 

Faith,  praise  and  gratitude  our  only  duties  towards  God. 
"  All  works,  apart  from  faith,  must  be  for  our  neighbour's 
sake."  There  are  "  no  good  works  save  such  as  God  com- 
mands." Good  works  done  without  faith  are  mere  sins. 
Annulment  of  the  supernatural  and  abasement  of  the 
natural  order.  The  Book  of  Concord  on  the  curtailment  of 
free-will.  Christianity  merely  inward.  Divorce  of  Church 
and  World,  of  Religion  and  Morals.  Lack  of  obligation  and 
sanction       ........      pages  43-66 

6.  The    part    played    by    Conscience    and    Personality. 

Luther's    Warfare    with    his    old    friend    Caspar 

On  Conscience  and  its  exercise  ;  how  to  set  it  to  rest. 
Help  of  conscience  at  critical  junctures.  Conscience  in 
the  religious  questions  of  the  day.    Schwenckfeld    .     pages  66-84 



7.  Self-Improvement  and  the  Reformation  of  the  Church. 

Whether  Luther  founded  a  school  of  godly,  Christian  life. 
A  Lutheran  theologian  on  the  lack  of  any  teaching  concerning 
emancipation  from  the  world.  The  means  of  self --reform  and 
their  reverse  side.  Self-reform  and  hatred  of  the  foe.  Com- 
panion phenomena  of  Luther's  hate.  Kindlier  traits  and 
episodes  :  The  Kohlhase  case  in  history  and  legend.  The 
Reformation  of  the  Church  and  Luther's  Ethics  ;  His 
work  ' '  Against  the  new  idol  and  olden  devil. ' '  The  Reforma- 
tion in  the  Duchy  of  Saxony.  The  aims  of  the  Reformation 
and  the  currents  of  the  age pages  84-133 

8.  The  Church  Apart  of  the  True  Believers. 

Luther's  earlier  theory  on  the  subject ;  Schwenckfeld  ; 
the  proceedings  at  Leisnig  ;  the  Popular  Church  supported  by 
the  State  ;  the  abortive  attempt  to  create  a  Church  Apart 
in  Hesse pages  133-144 

9.  Public  Worship.     Questions  of  Ritual. 

The    "  Deudsche   Messe  "  ;     the   liturgy   not   meant   for^ 
"  true  believers  "  ;  place  of  the  sermon    .  .  pages  145-154 

10.  Schwenckfeld   as   a   Critic   of   the    Ethical   Results 

of  Luther's  Life-work. 

Schwenckfeld  disappointed  in  his  hope  of  a  moral  renova- 
tion. Luther's  wrong  teaching  on  Law  and  Evangel  ; 
on  predestination,  on  freedom  and  on  faith  alone,  on  the 
inward  and  outward  Word.  Schwenckfeld  on  the  Popular 
Church  and  the  new  Divine  Service  .  .  pages  155-1G4 

HENSIONS AND  PRECAUTIONS       .  .  pages  165-224 

1.  The  Great  Victories  of  1540-1544. 

Success  met  with  at  Halle  and  Naumburg  ;  efforts  made 
at  Cologne,  Minister,  Osnabriick,  Brunswick,  and  Merseburg. 
Progress  abroad  ;  the  Turkish  danger  ;  the  Council  pages  165-168 

2.  Sad  Forebodings. 

False  brethren ;  new  sects ;  gloomy  outlook  for  the 
future pages  169-174 

3.  Provisions  for  the  Future. 

A  Protestant  Council  suggested  by  Bucer  and  Melanchthon. 
Luther's  attitude  towards  the  Consistories.  He  seeks  to  re- 
introduce the  Lesser  Excommunication.  The  want  of  a 
Hierarchy  begins  to  be  felt  ....  pages  174-191 

4.  Consecration   of   Nicholas   Amsdorf   as    "  Evangelical 

Bishop"  of  Naumburg  (1542). 

The  Ceremony.     Luther's  booklet  on  the  Consecration  of 
>ps.     Excerpts  from  his  correspondence  with  the  new 
"  BlshoP  " pages  192-200 


5.  Some  Further  Deeds  of  Violence.  Fate  of  Ecclesiastical 

Works  of  Art. 

End  of  the  Bishopric  of  Meissen.  Destruction  of  Church 
Property.  Blither's  attitude  towards  pictures  and  images. 
Details  as  to  the  fate  of  works  of  art  in  Prussia,  Bruns- 
wick, Danzig,  Hildesheim,  Merseburg,  etc.  Protest  of  the 
Nuremberg  artists pages  200-224 



1.  His  Persistent  Depression  in  Later  Years.     Persecu- 

tion Mania  and  Morbid  Fancies. 

Weariness  and  pessimism.  Grounds  of  his  low  spirits  ; 
suspects  the  Papists  ;  and  his  friends.  His  single-handed 
struggle  with  the  powers  of  evil       .  .  .  pages  225-241 

2.  Luther's   Fanatical  Expectation   of   the   End    of   the 

World.     His  hopeless  Pessimism. 

Why  he  was  convinced  that  the  end  was  nigh.  Allusions 
to  the  end  of  the  world  in  the  Table-Talk       .  .  pages  241-252 

3.  Melanchthon  under  the  Double  Burden,  of  Luther's 

Personality  and  his  own  Life's  Work. 

Some  of  Melanchthon's  deliverances.  His  state  of  servi- 
tude. His  last  years.  His  real  character.  Unfounded  tales 
about  him  ......  pages  252-275 

4.  Demonology  and  Demonomania. 

Luther's  devil-lore.  On  all  the  evil  the  devil  works  in  the 
world.  On  the  devil's  dwelling-place,  his  shapes  and  kinds. 
Witchcraft.  Connection  of  Luther's  devil-mania  with  his 
character  and  doctrine.  The  best  weapons  to  use  against  the 
devil pages  275-305 

5.  The  Psychology  of  Luther's  Jests  and  Satire. 

His  humour  in  the  home  and  in  his  writings.  He  finds 
relief  in  it  amidst  his  troubles.     Some  instances  of  his  jests 

pages  306-318 


CONSCIENCE pages  319-375 

1.  On  Luther's  "  Temptations  "  in  General. 

Some  characteristic  statements  concerning  his  "  combats 
and  temptations  "        .  .  .  .  .        pages  319-321 

2.  The  Subject-matter  of  jche  "  Temptations." 

"  Supposing  you  had  to  answer  for  all  the  souls  that 
perish  !  "  "If  you  do  not  penance  shall  you  not  likewise 
perish  ?  "    "  See  how  much  evil  arises  from  your  doctrine  !  " 

pages  321-326 

3.  An  Episode.     Terrors  of  Conscience  become  Tempta- 

tions of  the  Devil. 

Schlaginhaufen  falls  into  a  faint  at  Luther's  house. 
Luther  persuades  himself  that  his  remorse  of  conscience 
comes  from  the  devil     .....  pages  326-330 


4.  Progress  of  his  Mental  Sufferings  until  their  Flood- 

tide  in  1527-1528. 

"  What  labour  did  it  not  cost  me  ...  to  denounce  the 
Pope  as  Antichrist."  The  height  of  the  storm  ;  "  tossed 
about  between  death  and  hell  "  ;  "I  seek  only  for  a  gracious 
God."  Luther  pens  his  famous  hymn,  "  A  safe  stronghold 
our  God  is  still  "  ;  the  hymn  an  echo  of  his  struggles  pages  330-345 

5.  The  Ten  Years  from  1528-1538.    How  to  win  back  Peace 

of  Conscience. 

At  the  Coburg.  "  I  should  have  died  without  a  struggle." 
The  waning  of  the  "  struggles  by  day  and  by  night "  ; 
thoughts  of  suicide  ;  how  to  reach  peace  .  pages  346-356 

6.  Luther  on  his  Faith,  his  Doctrine,  and  his  Doubts,  par- 

ticularly in  his  Later  Years. 

His  notion  of  faith,  (a)  the  accepting  as  true,  (6)  the  be- 
lieving trust.  His  picture  of  himself  and  his  difficulties  in 
late  years  ;  he  compares  his  case  with  that  of  St.  Paul  and 
with  that  of  Christ  in  the  Garden.  Some  misunderstandings 
and  false  reports  as  to  Luther's  having  himself  condemned 
his  own  life-work  .....  pages  356-375 

HIGHEST  TENSION  ....  pages  376-431 

1.  Steps  taken  and  Tracts  Published  subsequent  to  1537 

against  the  council  of  the  church. 

The  Schmalkalden  meeting  in  1537.  Luther,  after  having 
asked  for  a  Council,  now  opposes  such  a  thing.  His  "  Von 
den  Conciliis."  The  Ratisbon  Interim.  The  Council  is 
summoned  ......  pages  376-381 

2.  "  Wider  das  Bapstum  zu  Rom  vom  Teuffel  Gestifft." 

The  Papacy  renews  its  Strength. 

Luther  is  urged  by  highly  placed  friends  to  thwart  the  plans 
of  Pope  Paul  III.  The  fury  of  his  new  book.  How  to  deal 
with  Pope  and  Cardinals.  The  "  Wittenberg  Reforma- 
tion "  drawn  up  as  a  counterblast  against  the  Council  of 
Trent pages  381-389 

3.  Some  Sayings  of  Luther's  on  the  Council  and  his  own 


"  If  we  are  to  submit  to  this  Council  we  might  as  well  have 
submitted  twenty-five  years  since  to  the  lord  of  the  Councils." 
How  Luther  would  have  spoken  to  the  Fathers  of  the  Council 
had  he  attended  it page8  389-394 

4.  Notable  Movements  of  the  Times  accompanied  by  Luther 

wish  "  Abuse  and  Defiance  down  to  the  very  Grave." 
The  Caricatures. 

The  Brunswick  raid  and  Luther's  treatment  of  Duke 
Henry.  His  wrath  against  the  Zwinglians  :  "  A  man  that  is  a 
heretic  avoid."  The  exception  Luther  made  in  favour  of  Cal- 
vin, the  friendly  relations  between  the  two,  their  similarities 
and  divergencies.    Luther  vents  his  anger  on  the  Jews  in  his 


"  Von  den  Jiiden  "  and  "  Vom  Schem  Hamphoras  "  (1543)  ; 
exceptional  foulness  of  his  language  in  these  two  screeds. 
An  earlier  work  of  his  on  the  Jews  ;  reason  why,  in  it,  he  is 
fairer  to  the  Jews  than  in  his  later  writings  ;  some  special 
motives  for  his  later  polemics  against  the  Jews  ;  his  "  De 
ultimis  verbis  Davidis."  His  crusade  against  the  Turks  ; 
his  translation  of  the  work  of  Richardus  against  the  Alcoran. 
His  last  effort  against  the  Papacy  :  "  Popery  Pictured  "  ; 
some  of  the  abominable  woodcuts  described  ;  the  state  of  soul 
they  presuppose.  Pirkheimer  on  "  the  audacity  of  Luther's 
unwashed  tongue  "        .....  pages  394-431 


LABOURS.     THE  WHOLE  REVIEWED  pages  432-556 

1.  Towards    a    Christianity    void    of   Dogma.     Protestant 


Harnack,  etc.,  on  Luther's  abandonment  of  individual 
points  of  Christian  doctrine  and  destruction  of  the  older 
idea  of  faith  :  The  Canon  and  true  interpretation  of  Scrip- 
ture ;  speculative  theology.  Luther's  own  admissions  that 
Christian  doctrine  is  a  chain  the  rupture  of  any  link  of  which 
involves  the  rupture  of  the  whole.  Luther's  inconsistencies 
in  matters  of  doctrine  as  instanced  by  Protestant  theologians  : 
Original  sin  and  unfreedom  ;  Law  and  Gospel  ;  Penance  ; 
Justification  and  good  works  ;  his  teaching  on  merit,  on  the 
sacraments  and  the  supper  ;  on  the  Church  and  Divine  wor- 
ship     pages  432-469 

2.  Luther  as  a  Popular  Religious  Writer.    The  Catechism. 

Collected  works  :  Luther's  preface  to  the  Latin  and 
German  Collections.  The  Church-postils  and  Home- 
postils ;  advantages  and  shortcomings  of  his  popular 
works  ;  his  silence  regarding  self-denial.  Origin  and  charac- 
ter of  the  Larger  and  Smaller  Catechisms.  His  Catechisms 
compared  with  the  older  catechetic  works       .  pages  470-494 

3.  The  German  Bible. 

The  work  of  translation  completed  in  1534  ;  how  it  was 
launched  on  the  public  and  the  extent  of  its  success.  The 
various  revisions  of  the  work  and  the  notes  of  the  meetings 
held  under  Luther's  presidency.  His  anxiety  to  use  only  the 
best  German  ;  "  Chancery  German."  The  language  of  the 
German  Bible,  its  scholarship  ;  its  inaccuracies  ;  Luther's 
"  Sendbrieff  "  to  defend  his  addition  of  the  word  "  alone  " 
in  Romans  iii.  28.  The  corrections  of  Emser  the  Dresden 
11  scribbler."  How  Luther  belittled  certain  books  of  Scrip- 
ture. Some  sidelights  into  the  psychology  of  Luther's  trans- 
lation. The  Bible  in  earlier  ages  ;  the  "  Bible  in  chains." 
Luther's  indebtedness  to  earlier  German  translators    pages  494-546 

4.  Luther's  Hymns. 

His  efforts  to  interest  his  friends  in  the  making  of  hymns. 
His  best-known  hymn,  "  A  safe  stronghold  our  God  is  still." 
Other  hymns  ;  their  character  and  musical  setting.  The 
"  Hymn  for  the  Outdriving  of  Antichrist "  once  falsely 
ascribed  to  Luther         .  .  .  .  .  pages  546-556 


SOCIETY  AND  EDUCATION   (continued  in  Vol.   VI) 

pages  557-600 

1.  Historical  Outlines  fob  Judging  of  his  Social  Work. 

Luther's  "  signal  services "  as  they  appear  to  certain 
modern  Protestants.  The  fell  results  of  his  twin  principle  : 
1°,  that  the  Church  is  alien  to  the  world,  and  2°,  has  no 
power  to  make  binding  laws         .  .  .  pages  557-568 

2.  The  State  and  the  State  Church. 

The  State  de-Christianised  and  the  Church  regarded  as  a 
mere  union  of  souls.  Luther  as  "  Founder  of  the  modern 
State."  The  secular  potentate  assimilated  to  King  David. 
The  New  Theocracy.  The  Established  Church.  Significance 
of  the  Visitation  introduced  in  the  Saxon  Electorate.  The 
"  Instructions  of  the  Visitors."  Luther  to  the  end  the 
plaything  of  divergent  currents       .  .  .  pages  568-600 

VOL.    V. 


V.— B 




1.   Preliminaries.     New  Foundations  of  Morality 

Luther's  system  of  ethics  mirrors  his  own  character.  If 
Luther's  personality,  in  all  its  psychological  individuality, 
shows  itself  in  his  dogmatic  theology  (see  vol.  iv.,  p.  387  ff.), 
still  more  is  this  the  case  in  his  ethical  teaching.  To  obtain 
a  vivid  picture  of  the  mental  character  of  their  author  and 
of  the  inner  working  of  his  mind,  it  will  suffice  to  unfold  his 
practical  theories  in  all  their  blatant  contradiction  and  to 
examine  on  what  they  rest  and  whence  they  spring.  First 
and  foremost  we  must  investigate  the  starting-point  of  his 
moral  teaching. 

To  begin  with,  it  was  greatly  influenced  by  his  theory 
that  the  Gospel  consisted  essentially  in  forgiveness,  in  the 
cloaking  over  of  guilt  and  in  the  soothing  of  "  troubled 
consciences."  Thanks  to  a  lively  faith  to  reach  a  feeling  of 
confidence,  is,  according  to  him,  the  highest  achievement  of 
ethical  effort.  At  the  same  time,  however,  Luther  lets  it 
be  clearly  understood  that  we  can  never  get  the  better  of 
sin.  In  the  shape  of  original  sin  it  ever  remains  ;  con- 
cupiscence is  always  sinful ;  and,  even  in  the  righteous, 
actual  sin  persists,  only  that  its  cry  is  drowned  by  the  voice 
speaking  from  the  Blood  of  Christ.  Man  must  look  upon 
himself  as  entirely  under  the  domination  of  the  devil,  and, 
only  in  so  far  as  Christ  ousts  the  devil  from  his  human 
stronghold,  can  a  man  be  entitled  to  be  called  good.  In 
himself  he  is  not  even  free  to  do  what  is  right. 

To  the  author  of  such  doctrines  it  was  naturally  a  matter 
of  some  difficulty  to  formulate  theoretically  the  injunctions 
of  morality.  Some  Protestants  indeed  vaunt  his  system  of 
ethics  as  the  best  ever  known,  and  as  based  on  an  entirely 



"  new  groundwork."  Many  others,  headed  by  Staudlin  the 
theologian,  have  nevertheless  openly  admitted  that  "no 
system  of  Christian  morality  could  exist,"  granted  Luther's 

Of  his  principles  the  following  must  be  borne  in  mind. 
Man's  attitude  towards  things  Divine  is  just  that  of  the 
dumb,  lifeless  "pillar  of  salt  into  which  Lot's  wife  was 
changed  "  ;  "  he  is  not  one  whit  better  off  than  a  clod  or 
stone,  without  eyes  or  mouth,  without  any  sense  and  with- 
out a  heart."2  Human  reason,  which  ought  to  govern  moral 
action,  becomes  in  matters  of  religion  "  a  crazy  witch  and 
Lady  Hulda,"3  the  "  clever  vixen  on  whom  the  heathen 
hung  when  they  thought  themselves  cleverest."4  Like 
reason,  so  the  will  too,  in  fallen  man,  behaves  quite  nega- 
tively towards  what  is  good,  whether  in  ethics  or  in  religion. 
"  We  remain  as  passive,"  he  says,  "  as  the  clay  in  the  hands 
of  the  potter  "  ;  freedom  there  is  indeed,  "  but  it  is  not 
under  our  control."  In  this  connection  he  refers  to  Melanch- 
thon's  "Loci  communes"5  whence  some  striking  statements 
against  free-will  have  already  been  quoted  in  the  course  of 
this  work.6 

It  is  only  necessary  to  imagine  the  practical  application 
of  such  principles  to  perceive  how  faulty  in  theory  Luther's 
ethics  must  have  been.  Luther,  however,  was  loath  to  see 
these  principles  followed  out  logically  in  practice. 

Other  theories  of  his  which  he  applies  either  not  at  all  or 
only  to  a  very  limited  extent  in  ethics  are,  for  instance,  his 
opinions  that  the  believer,  "  even  though  he  commit  sin, 
remains  nevertheless  a  godly  man,"  and,  that,  owing  to  our 
trusting  faith  in  Christ,  God  can  descry  no  sin  in  us  "  even 
when  we  remain  stuck  in  our  sins,"  because  we  "  have 
donned  the  golden  robe  of  grace  furnished  by  Christ's 
Blood."  In  his  Commentary  on  Galatians  he  had  said  : 
"  Act  as  though  there  had  never  been  any  law  or  any  sin 
but  only  grace  and  salvation  in  Christ  "  ;7   he  had  declared 

1  "  Gesch.  der  Moral,"  Gottingen,  1908,  p.  209. 

*  Cp.  the  passages  quoted  in  Mohler,  "  Symbolik,"  §  11. 

8  "  Werke,"  Weim.  ed.,  24,  p.  516  ;   Erl.  ed.,  34,  p.  138 

4  lb.,  10,  2,  p.  295  =  162,  p.  532. 

6  Lauterbach,  "  Tagebuch,"  p.  7. 

6  Vol.  ii.,  p.  239  f.  and  vol.  iv.,  p.  435.  Cp.  Luther's  own  words, 
passim,  in  our  previous  volumes. 

7  Comm.  on  Gal.,  Weim.  ed.,  40,  1,  p.  557  ;  Irmischer,  2,  p.  144. 


that  all  the  damned  were  predestined  to  hell,  and,  in  spite  of 
their  best  efforts,  could  not  escape  eternal  punishment. 
(Vol.  ii.,  pp.  268  ff.,  287  ff.) 

In  view  of  all  the  above  we  cannot  help  asking  ourselves, 
whence  the  moral  incentive  in  the  struggle  against  the 
depravity  of  nature  is  to  come  ;  where,  granted  that  our 
will  is  unfree  and  our  reason  blind,  any  real  ethical  answer- 
ableness  is  to  be  found  ;  what  motive  for  moral  conduct  a 
man  can  have  who  is  irrevocably  predestined  to  heaven  or 
to  hell  ;  and  what  grounds  God  has  for  either  rewarding  or 
punishing  ? 

To  add  a  new  difficulty  to  the  rest,  Luther  is  quite  certain 
of  the  overwhelming  power  of  the  devil.  The  devil  sways  all 
men  in  the  world  to  such  a  degree,  that,  although  we  are 
"  lords  over  the  devil  and  death,"  yet  "  at  the  same  time  we 
lie  under  his  heel  ...  for  the  world  and  all  that  belongs  to 
it  must  have  the  devil  as  its  master,  who  is  far  stronger  than 
we  and  clings  to  us  with  all  his  might,  for  we  are  his  guests 
and  dwellers  in  a  foreign  hostelry."1  But  because  through 
faith  we  are  masters,  "my  conscience,  though  it  feels  its 
guilt  and  fears  and  despairs  on  its  account,  yet  must  insist 
on  being  lord  and  conqueror  of  sin  .  .  .  until  sin  is  entirely 
banished  and  is  felt  no  longer."2  Yea,  since  the  devil  is  so 
intent  on  affrighting  us  by  temptations,  "  we  must,  when 
tempted,  banish  from  sight  and  mind  the  whole  Decalogue 
with  which  Satan  threatens  and  plagues  us  so  sorely."3 

Such  advice  could,  however,  only  too  easily  lead  people  to 
relinquish  an  unequal  struggle  with  an  unquenchable  Con- 
cupiscence and  an  overwhelmingly  powerful  devil,  or,  to  lose 
sight  of  the  distinction  between  actual  sin  and  our  mere 
natural  concupiscence,  between  sin  and  mere  temptation  ; 
Luther  failed  to  see  that  his  doctrines  would  only  too  readily 
induce  an  artificial  confidence,  and  that  people  would  put  the 
blame  for  their  human  frailties  on  their  lack  of  freedom,  their 
ineradicable  concupiscence,  or  on  the  almighty  devil. 

How,  all  this  notwithstanding,  he  contrived  to  turn  his 
back  on  the  necessary  consequences  of  his  own  teaching,  and 
to  evolve  a  practical  system  of  ethics  far  better  than  what 
his  theories  would  have  led  us  to  expect,  is  plain  from  his 

1  "  Werke,"  Weim.  ed.,  36,  p.  495  ;  Erl.  ed.,  51,  p.  90.  Cp.  our 
vol.  iv.,  p.  436.  *  lb.,  p.  495  =  91. 

3  To  Hier.  Weller  (July  ?),  1530,  "  Brief wechsel,"  8,  p.  159. 


warm  recommendation  of  good  works,  of  chastity,  neigh- 
bourly love  and  other  virtues. 

In  brief,  he  taught  in  his  own  way  what  earlier  ages  had 
also  taught,  viz.  that  sin  and  vice  must  be  shunned  ;  in  his 
own  way  he  exhorted  all  to  practise  virtue,  particularly  to 
perform  those  deeds  of  brotherly  charity  reckoned  so  high  in 
the  Church  of  yore.  In  what  follows  we  shall  have  to  see 
how  far  his  principles  nevertheless  intervened,  and  how 
much  personal  colouring  he  thereby  imparted  to  his  system 
of  ethics.  In  so  doing  what  we  must  bear  in  mind  is  his  own 
way  of  viewing  the  aims  of  morality  and  practical  matters 
generally,  for  here  we  are  concerned,  not  with  the  results  at 
which  he  should  logically  have  arrived,  but  with  the  opinions 
he  actually  held. 

The  difficulty  of  the  problem  is  apparent  not  merely  from 
the  nature  of  certain  of  his  theological  views  just  stated,  but 
particularly  from  what  he  thought  concerning  original  sin 
and  concupiscence,  which  colours  most  of  his  moral  teaching. 

In  his  teaching,  as  we  already  know,  original  sin  remains, 
even  after  baptism,  as  a  real  sin  in  the  guise  of  con- 
cupiscence ;  by  its  evil  desires  and  self-seeking  it  poisons 
all  man's  actions  to  the  end  of  his  life,  except  in  so  far  as  his 
deeds  are  transformed  by  the  "  faith  "  from  above  into 
works  pleasing  to  God,  or  rather,  are  accounted  as  such. 
Owing  to  the  enmity  to  God  which  prevails  in  the  man  who 
thus  groans  under  the  weight  of  sin  even  "  civil  justice  is 
mere  sinfulness  ;  it  cannot  stand  before  the  absolute 
demands  of  God.  All  that  man  can  do  is  to  acknowledge 
that  things  really  are  so  and  to  confess  his  unrighteous- 
ness."1 Such  an  attitude  Luther  calls  "  humility."  Catholic 
moralists  and  ascetics  have  indeed  ever  made  all  other 
virtues  to  proceed  from  humility  as  from  a  fertile  source, 
but  there  is  no  need  to  point  out  how  great  is  the  difference 
between  Luther's  "  humility  "  and  that  submission  of  the 
heart  to  God's  will  of  which  Catholic  theologians  speak. 
Humility,  as  Luther  understood  it,  was  an  "  admission  of 
our  corruption  "  ;  according  to  him  it  is  our  recognition  of 
the  enduring  character  of  original  sin  that  leads  us  to  God  and 
compels  us  "  to  admit  the  revelation  of  the  Grace  of  God 
bestowed  on  us  in  Christ's  work  of  redemption,"  by  means 

1  W.  Braun,  "  Die  Bedeutung  der  Concupiscenz  in  Luthers  Leben 
und  Lehre,"  Berlin,  1908,  p.  310. 


of  "faith,  i.e.  security  of  salvation."  It  is  possible  to  speak 
"  only  of  a  gradual  restraining  of  sin,"  so  strongly  are  we 
drawn  to  evil.  We  indeed  receive  grace  by  faith,  but  of  any 
infused  grace  or  blotting  out  of  sin,  Luther  refuses  to  hear, 
since  the  inclinations  which  result  from  original  sin  still 
persist.  Hence  "by  grace  sin  is  not  blotted  out."  Rather, 
the  grace  which  man  receives  is  an  imputed  grace ;  "  the  real 
answer  to  the  question  as  to  how  Luther  arrived  at  his 
conviction  that  imputed  grace  was  necessary  and  not  to  be 
escaped  is  to  be  found  in  his  own  inward  experience  that  the 
tendencies  due  to  original  sin  remain,  even  in  the  regenerate. 
This  sin,  which  persists  in  the  baptised,  .  .  .  forces  him,  if 
he  wishes  to  avoid  the  pitfall  of  despair  ...  to  keep  before 
his  mind  the  consoling  thought  .  .  .  '  that  God  does  not 
impute  to  him  his  sin.'  '^ 

2.   The  two  Poles:   the  Law  and  the  Gospel 

One  of  the  ethical  questions  that  most  frequently  engaged 
Luther's  attention  concerned  the  relation  of  Law  and  Gospel. 
In  reality  it  touched  the  foundations  of  his  moral  teaching. 

His  having  rightly  determined  how  Law  and  Gospel  stood 
seemed  to  him  one  of  his  greatest  achievements,  in  fact  one 
of  the  most  important  of  the  revelations  made  to  him  from 
on  High.  "  Whoever  is  able  clearly  to  distinguish  the  Law 
from  the  Gospel,"  he  says,  "  let  such  a  one  give  thanks  to 
God  and  know  that  he  is  indeed  a  theologian."2  Alluding  to 
the  vital  importance  of  Luther's  theory  on  the  Law  with  its 
demands  and  the  Gospel  with  its  assurance  of  salvation, 
Friedrich  Loofs,  the  historian  of  dogma,  declares  :  Here 
"  may  be  perceived  the  fundamental  difference  between  the 
Lutheran  and  the  Catholic  conception  of  Christianity,"3 
though  he  does  not  fear  to  hint  broadly  at  the  "  defects  " 
and  "  limitations  "  of  Luther's  new  discovery  ;  rather  he 
admits  quite  openly,  that  some  leading  aspects  of  the 
question  "  never  even  revealed  themselves  clearly "  to 
Luther,  but  betray  a  "  notable  "  lack  of  discernment,  and 
that  Luther's  whole  conception  of  the  Law  contained 
"  much  that  called  for  further  explanation."4 

1  Braun,  ib.,  p.  310-312. 

2  "  Comm.  on  Gal.,"  Weim.  ed.,  40,  1,  p.  207  ;  Irmischer,  1,  p.  172, 

3  "Leitfaden  zum  Stud,  der  DG,"  Halle,  19G6,  p.  722. 

4  lb.,  pp.  770  f.,  773  f.,  778. 


In  order  to  give  here  a  clearer  picture  of  Luther's  doctrine 
on  this  matter  than  it  was  possible  to  do  in  the  earlier 
passages  where  his  view  was  touched  upon  it  may  be  pointed 
out,  that,  when,  as  he  so  frequently  does,  he  speaks  of  the 
Law  he  means  not  merely  the  Old-Testament  ceremonial 
and  judicial  law,  but  even  the  moral  law  and  commands 
both  of  the  Old  Covenant1  and  of  the  New,2  in  short  every- 
thing in  the  nature  of  a  precept  binding  on  the  Christian  the 
infringement  of  which  involves  him  in  guilt ;  he  means,  as 
he  himself  expresses  it,  "  everything  .  .  .  that  speaks  to  us 
of  our  sins  and  of  God's  wrath."3 

By  the  Gospel  moreover  he  understands,  not  merely  the 
promises  contained  in  the  New  Testament  concerning  our 
salvation,  but  also  those  of  the  Old  Covenant ;  he  finds  the 
Gospel  everywhere,  even  previous  to  Christ  :  "  There  is  not 
a  book  in  the  Bible,"  he  says,  "  which  does  not  contain  them 
both  [the  Law  and  the  Gospel].  God  has  thus  placed  in 
every  instance,  side  by  side,  the  Law  and  the  promises,  for, 
by  the  Law,  He  teaches  what  we  are  to  do,  and,  by  the 
promises,  how  we  are  to  set  about  it."  In  his  church-postils 
where  this  passage  occurs  Luther  explains  more  fully  what 
he  means  by  the  "  promise,"  or  Gospel,  as  against  the  Law  : 
It  is  the  "  glad  tidings  whereby  grace  and  forgiveness  of  sins 
is  offered.  Hence  works  do  not  belong  to  the  Gospel,  for  it 
is  no  law,  but  faith  only  [is  required],  for  it  is  simply  a 
promise  and  an  offer  of  Divine  grace.  Whoever  believes  it 
receives  the  grace."4 

As  to  the  relationship  between  the  Law  and  the  Gospel  : 
Whereas  the  Law  does  not  express  the  relation  between  God 
and  man,  the  Gospel  does.  The  latter  teaches  us  that  we 
may,  nay  must,  be  assured  of  our  salvation  previous  to  any 
work  of  ours,  in  order,  that,  born  anew  by  such  faith,  we 
may  be  ready  to  fulfil  God's  Will  as  free,  Christian  men. 
The  Law,  on  the  other  hand,  reveals  the  Will  of  God,  on 
pedagogic  grounds,  as  the  foundation  of  a  system  of  merit  or 
reward.  It  is  indeed  necessary  as  a  negative  preparation 
for  faith,  but  its  demands  cannot  be  complied  with  by  the 
natural  man,  to  say  nothing  of  the  fact  that  it  seems  to  make 
certainty  of  salvation,  upon  which  everything  depends  in 

1  Cp.  Loofs,  ib.,  p.  771,  n.  4. 

2  But  cp.  what  Loofs  says,  ib.,  p.  772,  n.  5 

"  "  Werke,"  Erl.  edv  132,  p.  153.  «  ib.,  102,  p.  96 


our  moral  life,  contingent  on  the  fulfilment  of  its  pre- 

From  this  one  can  see  how  inferior  to  the  Gospel  is  the  Law. 

The  Law  speaks  of  "  facer e,  oyerari"  of  "  deeds  and 
works  "  as  essential  for  salvation.  "  These  words  " — so 
Luther  told  the  students  in  his  Disputations  in  1537  on  the 
very  eve  of  the  Antinomian  controversy — "  I  should  like  to 
see  altogether  banished  from  theology  ;  for  they  imply  the 
notions  of  merit  and  duty  ("  meritum  et  debitum  "),  which  is 
beyond  toleration.  Hence  I  urge  you  to  refrain  from  the  use 
of  such  terms."2 

What  he  here  enjoins  he  had  himself  striven  to  keep  in  view 
from  the  earliest  days  of  his  struggle  against  "  self -righteous- 
ness "  and  "  holiness -by- works."  These  he  strove  to  under- 
mine, in  the  same  measure  as  he  exalted  original  sin  and  its  con- 
sequences. Psychologically  his  attitude  in  theology  towards 
these  questions  was  based  on  the  renegade  monk's  aversion 
to  works  and  their  supposed  merit.  His  chief  bugbear  is  the 
meritoriousness  of  any  keeping  of  the  Law.  For  one  reason 
or  another  he  went  further  and  denied  even  its  binding 
character  ("  debitum  ")  ;  caught  in  the  meshes  of  that 
pseudo-mystic  idealism  to  which  he  was  early  addicted  we 
hear  him  declaring  :  the  Christian,  when  he  is  justified  by 
"  faith,"  does  of  his  own  accord  and  without  the  Law  every- 
thing that  is  pleasing  to  God  ;  what  is  really  good  is  per- 
formed without  any  constraint  out  of  a  simple  love  for  what 
is  good.  In  this  wise  it  was  that  he  reached  his  insidious 
thesis,  viz.  that  the  believer  stands  everywhere  above  the  Law 
and  that  the  Christian  knows  no  Law  whatever.3  In  quite 
general  terms  he  teaches  that  the  Law  is  in  opposition  to 
the  Gospel  ;  that  it  does  not  vivify  but  kills  ;  and  that  its 
real  task  is  merely  to  frighten  us,  to  show  us  what  we  are 
unable  to  do,  to  reveal  sin  and  "  increase  it."  The  preaching 
of  the  Law  he  here  depicts,  not  as  "  good  and  profitable,  but 
as  actually  harmful,"  as  "  nothing  but  death  and  poison."4 

That  such  a  setting  aside  of  the  specifically  Mosaic  Law 
appealed  to  him,  we  can  readily  understand.     But  does  he 

1  Cp.  Loofs,  ib.,  p.  721  f. 

2  ||  Disput.,"  ed.  P.  Drews,  p.  159  ;   cp.  ib.,  pp.  126,  136  f.,  156. 

3  "  Dixi  .  .  .  quod  christianus  nullam  prorsus  legem  habeat,  sed  quod 
tola  Mi  lex  abrogata  sit  cum  suis  terroribus  et  vcxationibus."  "  Comm. 
on  Gal.,"  VVeim.  ed.,  40,  1,  p.  668  f.  ;   Irmischer,  2,  p.  263. 

4  "  Werke,"  Erl.  ed.,  92,  p.  238  f. 


include  in  his  reprobation  the  whole  "  lex  moralis,"  the 
Natural  Law  which  the  Old  Testament  merely  confirmed, 
and  which,  according  to  Luther  himself,  is  written  in  man's 
heart  by  nature  ?  This  Law  he  asserts  is  implicitly  obeyed 
as  soon  as  the  heart,  by  its  acceptance  of  the  assurance  of 
salvation,  is  cleansed  and  filled  with  the  love  of  God.1  And 
yet  "  in  many  instances  he  applies  to  this  Natural  Law  what 
he  says  elsewhere  of  the  Law  of  Moses ;  it  too  affrights  us, 
increases  sin,  kills,  and  stands  opposed  to  the  Gospel."2 
Desirous  of  destroying  once  and  for  all  any  idea  of  righteous- 
ness or  merit  being  gained  through  any  fulfilment  of  any 
Law,  he  forgets  himself,  in  his  usual  way,  and  says  strong 
things  against  the  Law  which  scarcely  agree  with  other 
statements  he  makes  elsewhere. 

Owing  to  polemists  taking  too  literally  what  he  said,  he 
has  been  represented  as  holding  opinions  on  the  Law  and 
the  Gospel  which  in  point  of  fact  he  does  not  hold ;  indeed, 
some  have  made  him  out  a  real  Antinomian.  Yet  we  often 
hear  him  exhorting  his  followers  to  bow  with  humility  to 
the  commandments,  to  bear  the  yoke  of  submission  and 
thus  to  get  the  better  of  sin  and  death.  Nevertheless,  par- 
ticularly when  dealing  with  those  whose  "  conscience  is 
affrighted,"  he  is  very  apt  to  forget  what  he  has  just  said  in 
favour  of  the  Law,  and  prefers  to  harp  on  his  pet  theology  : 
"  Man  must  pay  no  heed  to  the  Law  but  only  to  Christ." 
"  In  dealing  with  this  aspect  of  the  matter  we  cannot  speak 
too  slightingly  of  so  contemptuous  a  thing  [as  the  Law]."3 

His  changeableness  and  obscurity  on  this  point  is  character- 
istic of  his  mode  of  thought. 

•  At  times  he  actually  goes  so  far  as  to  ascribe  to  the  Law  merely 
an  outward,  deterrent  force  and  to  make  its  sole  value  in  ordinary 
life  consist  in  the  restraining  of  evil.  Even  when  he  is  at  pains 
to  emphasise  the  "  real,  theological  "  use  of  the  Law  as  prepara- 
tory to  grace,  he  deliberately  introduces  statements  concerning 

1  lb.,  Weim.  ed.,  24,  p.  10  ;  Erl.  ed.,  33,  p.  13.  Cp.  Loofs,  ib.,  p.  764, 
ii.  _. 

2  Loofs,  ib.,  p.  773,  where  he  cites  the  "Comm.  on  Gal."  (1535), 
Weim.  ed.,  40,  1,  p.  209  ;   Irmischer,  1,  p.  174. 

3  "  Quia  Paulus  hie  versatur  in  loco  iustificationis,  .  .  .  necessitous 
postulabat,  ut  de  lege  tamquam  de  re  contemptissima  loqueretur,  neque 
satis  vihter  et  odiose,  cum  in  hoc  argumento  versamur,  de  ea  loqui  pos- 
sumus  Comm.  on  Gal.,"  Weim.  ed.,  40,  1,  p.  557  ;  Irmischer,  2, 
p.  144.  Conscientia  perterrefacta  .  .  .  nihil  de  lege  et  peccato  scire 
debet,  sed  tantum  de  Christo."  Ib.,  p.  207  f.=:p.  173  sq  Cp  "  Werke  " 
Erl.  ed.,  58,  p.  279  f.  ("  Tischreden  ")  and  "  Opp.  lat.  var."  4,  p.  427  ' 


the  Law  which  do  not  at  all  help  to  explain  the  matter.  Accord- 
ing to  him,  highly  as  we  must  esteem  the  Law  for  its  sacred 
character,  its  effect  upon  people  who  are  unable  to  keep  it  is 
nevertheless  not  wholesome  but  rather  harmful,  because  thereby 
sin  is  multiplied,  particularly  the  sin  of  unbelief,  i.e.  as  seen  in 
want  of  confidence  in  the  certainty  of  salvation  and  in  the 
striving  after  righteousness  by  the  exact  fulfilling  of  the  Law.1 
"  Whoever  feels  contrition  on  account  of  the  Law,"  he  says  for 
instance,  "  cannot  attain  to  grace,  on  the  contrary  he  is  getting 
further  and  further  away  from  it."2 

Even  for  the  man  who  has  already  laid  hold  on  salvation  by 
the  "  fides  specialis  "  and  has  clothed  himself  in  Christ's  merits, 
the  deadening  and  depraving  effect  of  the  Law  has  not  yet  ceased. 
It  is  true  that  he  is  bound  to  listen  to  the  voice  of  the  Law  and 
does  so  with  profit  in  order  to  learn  "  how  to  crucify  the  flesh  by 
means  of  the  spirit,  and  direct  his  steps  in  the  concerns  of  this 
life."  Yet — and  on  this  it  is  that  Luther  dwells — because  the 
pious  man  is  quite  unable  to  fulfil  the  Law  perfectly,  he  is  only 
made  sensible  of  his  own  sinfulness  ;  against  this  dangerous  feeling 
he  must  struggle.3  Hence  everything  depends  on  one's  ability 
to  set  oneself  with  Christ  above  the  Law  and  to  refuse  to  listen 
to  its  demands  ;  for  Christ,  Who  has  taken  the  whole  load  upon 
Himself,  bears  the  sin  and  has  fulfilled  the  Law  for  us.4  That 
this,  however,  was  difficult,  nay,  frequently,  quite  impossible, 
Luther  discovered  for  himself  during  his  inward  struggles,  and 
made  no  odds  in  admitting  it.  He  gives  a  warning  against  engaging 
in  any  struggles  with  our  conscience,  which  is  the  herald  of  the 
Law  ;  such  contests  "  often  lead  men  to  despair,  to  the  knife  and 
the  halter."5  Of  the  manner  in  which  he  dealt  with  his  own  con- 
science we  shall,  however,  speak  more  in  detail  below  (XXIX,  6). 

It  is  not  necessary  to  point  out  the  discrepancies  and  contra- 
dictions in  the  above  train  of  thought.  Luther  was  untiring  in 
his  efforts  at  accommodation,  and,  whenever  he  wished,  had 
plenty  to  say  on  the  matter.  Here,  even  more  plainly  than  else- 
where, we  see  both  his  lack  of  system  and  the  irreconcilable  con- 
tradictions lying  in  the  very  core  of  his  ethics  and  theology. 
Friedrich  Loofs  says  indulgently:  "Dogmatic  theories  he  had 
none  ;  without  over  much  theological  reflection  he  simply  gives 
expression  to  his  religious  convictions."6 

It  is  strange  to  note  how  the  aspect  of  the  Law  changes  accord- 
ing as  it  is  applied  to  the  wicked  or  to  the  just,  though  it  was 
given  for  the  instruction  and  salvation  of  all  alike.  In  the  New 
Testament  we  read  :    "  My  yoke  is  sweet  and  my  burden  light," 

1  Cp.  Loofs,  ib.,  p.  775.    Luther  here  refers  to  Rom.  v.  20  ;  vii.  9,  etc. 

2  "  Contritus  lege  tantum  abest  ut  perveniat  ad  gratiam,  ut  longius  ab 
ea  discedat."     "  Disput.,"  ed.  P.  Drews,  p.  284. 

3  "  Comm.  on  Gal.,"  Weim.  ed.,  2,  p.  498  ;  40,  1,  p.  208  ;  Irmischer, 
3,  p.  236  ;    1,  p.  173.  *  Loofs,  ib.,  p.  775  f. 

5  "  Quae,  (conscientia)  scepe  ad  desperationem,  adgladium  et  ad  laqueum 
homines  adigit"  "  Werke,"  Weim.  ed.,  25,  p.  330  ;  "  Opp.  lat.  exeg.," 
23,  p.  141  sq.  «  P.  737,  n. 


but  even  in  the  Old  Testament  it  had  been  said  :  "  Much  peace 
have  they  that  love  thy  Law."1  According  to  Luther  the  man 
who  is  seeking  for  salvation  and  has  not  yet  laid  hold  on  faith  in 
the  forgiveness  of  sins  must  let  himself  be  "  ground  down  ['  con- 
teriy'  cp.  '  contriiio  ']  by  the  Law  "  until  he  has  learnt  "  to  live 
in  a  naked  trust  in  God's  Mercy."2  The  man,  however,  who 
by  faith  has  assured  himself  of  salvation  looks  at  the  Law  and 
its  transgressions,  viz.  sin,  in  quite  a  different  light. 

"  He  lives  in  a  different  world,"  says  Luther,  "  where  he  must 
know  nothing  either  of  sin  or  of  merit ;  if  however  he  feels  his 
sin,  he  is  to  look  at  it  as  clinging,  not  to  his  own  person,  but  to 
the  person  (Christ)  on  whom  God  has  cast  it,  i.e.  he  must  regard 
it,  not  as  it  is  in  itself  and  appears  to  his  conscience,  but  rather 
in  Christ  by  Whom  it  has  been  atoned  for  and  vanquished.  Thus 
he  has  a  heart  cleansed  from  all  sin  by  the  faith  which  affirms 
that  sin  has  been  conquered  and  overthrown  by  Christ.  .  .  . 
Hence  it  is  sacrilege  to  look  at  the  sin  in  your  heart,  for  it  is  the 
devil  who  puts  it  there,  not  God.  You  must  say,  my  sins  are  not 
mine  ;  they  are  not  in  me  at  all  ;  they  are  the  sins  of  another  ; 
they  are  Christ's  and  are  none  of  my  business."3  Elsewhere  he 
describes  similarly  the  firm  consolation  of  the  righteous  with 
regard  to  the  Law  and  its  accusations  of  sin  :  's  This  is  the 
supreme  comfort  of  the  righteous,  to  vest  and  clothe  Christ  with 
my  sins  and  yours  and  those  of  the  whole  world,  and  then  to 
look  upon  Him  as  the  bearer  of  all  our  sins.  The  man  who  thus 
regards  Him  will  soon  come  to  scorn  the  fanatical  notions  of  the 
sophists  concerning  justification  by  works.  They  rave  of  a  faith 
that  works  by  love  {''fides  formata  caritate'),  and  assert  that 
thereby  sins  are  taken  away  and  men  justified.  But  this  simply 
means  to  undress  Christ,  to  strip  Him  of  sin,  to  make  Him 
innocent,  to  burden  and  load  ourselves  with  our  own  sins  and  to 
see  them,  not  in  Christ,  but  in  ourselves,  which  is  the  same  thing 
as  to  put  away  Christ  and  say  He  is  superfluous."4 

The  confidence  with  which  Luther  says  such  things  concerning 
the  transgression  of  the  Divine  Law  by  the  righteous  is  quite 
startling ;  nor  does  he  do  so  in  mere  occasional  outbursts,  but  his 
frequent  statements  to  this  effect  seem  measured  and  dispassion- 
ate, nor  were  they  intended  simply  for  the  learned  but  even 
for  common  folk.  It  was  for  the  latter,  for  instance,  that  in  his 
"  Sermon  von  dem  Sacrament  der  Puss  "  he  said  briefly  :  "To 
him  who  believes,  everything  is  profitable  and  nothing  harmful, 
but,  to  him  who  believes  not,  everything  is  harmful  and  nothing 

"  Whosoever  does  not  believe,"  i.e.  has  failed  to  lay  hold  of 

1  Mt.  xi.  30  ;   Ps.  cxviii.  165. 

2  "Werke,"  Weim.  ed.,  1,  p.  357;  "Opp.  lat.  var.,"  1,  p.  392. 
Luther  frequently  uses  the  term  "  conteri  lege" 

3  "  Dices  enim  :  Peccata  mea  non  sunt  mea,  quia  non  sunt  in  me,  sed 
sunt  aliena,  Christi  videlicet  ;  non  ergo  me  Icedere  poterunt.''''  "  Werke  " 
Weim.  ed.,  25,  p.  330  ;   "  Opp.  lat.  exeg.,"  23,  p.  141. 

4  "  Comm.  on  Gal.,"  Weim.  ed.,  40,  1,  p.  436  ;   Irmischer,  2,  p.  17. 
6  "  Werke,"  Weim.  ed.,  2,  p.  723  ;   Erl.  ed.,  162,  p.  48. 


the  certainty  of  salvation,  deserves  to  feel  the  relentless  severity 
of  the  Law  ;  let  him  learn  that  the  "  right  understanding  and 
use  of  the  Law  "  is  this,  "  that  it  does  no  more  than  prove  "  that 
all  "  who,  without  faith,  follow  its  behests  are  slaves,  stuck  [in 
the  Law]  against  their  will  and  without  any  certainty  of  grace." 
"  They  must  confess  that  by  the  Law  they  are  unable  to  make 
the  slightest  progress." 

"  Even  should  you  worry  yourself  to  death  with  works,  still 
your  heart  cannot  thereby  raise  itself  to  such  a  faith  as  the  Law 
calls  for."1 

Thus,  by  the  Law  alone,  and  without  the  help  of  Luther's 
"  faith,"  we  become  sheer  "  martyrs  of  the  devil." 

It  is  this  road,  according  to  him,  that  the  Papists  tread  and 
that  he  himself,  so  he  assures  us,  had  followed  when  a  monk. 
There  he  had  been  obliged  to  grind  himself  on  the  Law,  i.e.  had 
been  forced  to  fight  his  way  in  despair  until  at  last  he  discovered 
justification  in  faith.2  One  thing  that  is  certain  is  his  early 
antipathy — due  to  the  laxity  of  his  life  as  a  religious  and  to  his 
pseudo-mysticism — for  the  burdens  and  supposed  deadening 
effect  of  the  Law,  an  antipathy  to  which  he  gave  striking  expres- 
sion at  the  Heidelberg  Disputation.3 

Luther  remained  all  his  life  averse  to  the  Law.4  In  1542, 
i.e.  subsequent  to  the  Antinomian  controversy,  he  even 
compared  the  Law  to  the  gallows.  He  hastens,  however,  to 
remove  any  bad  impression  he  may  have  made,  by  referring 
to  the  power  of  the  Gospel  :  "  The  Law  does  not  punish  the 
just ;  the  gallows  are  not  put  up  for  those  who  do  not  steal 
but  for  robbers."5  The  words  occur  in  an  answer  to  his 
friends'  questions  concerning  the  biblical  objections  advanced 
by  the  Catholics.  They  had  adduced  certain  passages  in 
which  everlasting  life  is  promised  to  those  who  keep  the  Law 
("  factor es  legis  ")  and  wfcere  "  love  of  God  with  the  whole 
heart  "  rather  than  faith  alone  is  represented  as  the  true 

1  lb.,  10,  1,  1.  p.  338  f.  =  72,  p.  259  ff. 

2  See,  however,  below,  vol.  vi.,  xxxvii.,  2. 

3  Vol.  i.,  p.  317  f.  and  passim. 

4  Cp.  Mathesius,  "  Tischreden,"  ed.  Kroker,  p.  260. — Ammon 
("  Hdb.  der  chr.  Sittenlehre,"  1,  1823,  p.  76)  laments  that  Luther 
"  regarded  the  moral  law  merely  as  a  vision  of  terror,"  and  that 
according  to  him  "the  essence  of  the  Christian  religion  consisted,  not 
in  moral  perfection,  but  in  faith."  De  Wette,  "  Christl.  Sittenlehre," 
2,  2,  1821,  p.  280  f.,  thinks  that  an  ethical  system  might  have  been 
erected  on  the  antithesis  set  up  by  Luther  between  the  Law  and  the 
Gospel  and  on  his  theories  of  Christian  freedom,  "  but  that  Luther  was 
not  equal  to  doing  so.  He  was  too  much  taken  up  with  his  fight  against 
the  Catholic  holiness-by-works  to  devote  all  the  attention  he  should  to 
the  moral  side  of  the  question  and  not  enough  of  a  scholar  even  to 
dream  of  any  connection  between  faith  and  morality  being  feasible." 

5  Mathesius,  ib.    The  Note  in  question  is  by  Caspar  Heydenreich. 


source  of  righteousness  and  salvation.  Luther  solves  the 
questions  to  his  own  content.  Those  who  keep  the  Law,  he 
admits,  "  are  certainly  just,  but  not  by  any  means  owing 
to  their  fulfilment  of  the  Law,  for  they  were  already  just 
beforehand  by  virtue  of  the  Gospel ;  for  the  man  who  acts 
as  related  in  the  Bible  passages  quoted  stands  in  no  need 
of  the  Law.  ...  Sin  does  not  reign  over  the  just,  and,  to 
the  end,  it  will  not  sully  them.  .  .  .  The  Law  is  named 
merely  for  those  who  sin,  for  Paul  thus  defines  the  Law  : 
'The  Law  is  the  knowledge  of  sin'  (Rom.  iii.  20)."— In 
reality  what  St.  Paul  says  is  that  "  By  the  Law  is  the  know- 
ledge of  sin,"  and  he  only  means  that  the  Old-Testament 
ordinances  of  which  he  is  speaking,  led,  according  to  God's 
plan,  to  a  sense  of  utter  helplessness  and  therefore  to  a 
yearning  for  the  Saviour.  Luther's  very  different  idea,  viz. 
that  the  Law  was  meant  for  the  sinner  and  served  as  a  gallows, 
is  stated  by  W.  Walther  the  Luther  researcher,  in  the 
following  milder  though  perfectly  accurate  form  :  "  In  so 
far  as  the  Christian  is  not  yet  a  believer  he  lacks  true 
morality.  Even  in  his  case  therefore  the  Law  is  not  yet 

"  A  distinction  must  be  made,"  so  Luther  declares, 
"  between  the  Law  for  the  sinner  and  the  Law  for  the  non- 
sinner.  The  Law  is  not  given  to  the  righteous,  i.e.  it  is  not 
against  them."2 

The  olden  Church  had  stated  her  conception  of  the  Law  and 
the  Gospel  both  simply  and  logically.  In  her  case  there  was  no 
assumption  of  any  assurance  of  salvation  by  faith  alone  to  dis- 
turb the  relations  between  the  Law  and  the  Gospel ;  one  was  the 
complement  of  the  other  ;  though,  agreeably  to  the  Gospel,  she 
proclaimed  the  doctrine  of  love  in  its  highest  perfection,  yet  at 
the  same  time,  like  St.  Peter,  she  insisted  in  the  name  of  the 
"  Law,"  that,  in  the  fear  of  sin  and  "  by  dint  of  good  works  "  we 
must  make  sure  our  calling  and  election  (2  Peter  i.  10).  She 
never  ceased  calling  attention  to  the  divinely  appointed  connec- 
tion between  the  heavenly  reward  and  our  fidelity  to  the  Law, 
vouched  for  both  in  the  Old  Testament  ("  For  thou  wilt  render 
to  every  man  according  to  his  works,"  Ps.  lxi.  13)  and  also  in 
the  New  ("  The  Son  of  Man  will  render  to  every  man  according 
to  his  works,"  Mt.  xvi.  27,  and  elsewhere,  "  For  we  must  all  be 
manifested  before  the  judgment  seat  of  Christ  that  everyone  may 
receive  the  proper  things  of  the  body  according  as  he  hath  done, 
whether  it  be  good  or  evil,"  2  Cor.  v.  10). 

1  "  Christl.  Sittlichkeit  nach  Luther,"  1909,  p.  91  i. 

2  Mathesius,  "  Tischreden,"  p.  261. 


3.  Encounter  with  the  Antinomianism  of  Agricola 

Just  as  the  Anabaptist  and  fanatic  movement  had 
originally  been  fostered  by  Luther's  doctrines,  so  Antinomi- 
anism sprang  from  the  seed  he  had  scattered. 

Johann  Agricola,  the  chief  spokesman  of  the  Antinomians, 
merely  carried  certain  theses  of  Luther's  to  their  logical 
conclusion,  doing  so  openly  and  regardless  of  the  conse- 
quences. He  went  much  further  than  his  master,  who 
often  had  at  least  the  prudence  here  and  elsewhere  to  turn 
back  half-way,  a  want  of  logic  which  Luther  had  to  thank 
for  his  escape  from  many  dangers  in  both  doctrine  and 
practice.  In  the  same  way  as  Luther,  with  the  utmost 
tenacity  and  vigour,  had  withstood  the  Anabaptists  and 
fanatics  when  they  strove  to  put  in  full  practice  his  own 
principles,  so  also  he  proclaimed  war  on  the  Antinomians' 
enlargement  and  application  of  his  ideas  on  the  Law  and 
Gospel  which  appeared  to  him  fraught  with  the  greatest 
danger.  That  the  contentions  of  the  Antinomians  were 
largely  his  own,  formulated  anew,  must  be  fairly  evident  to 

Johann  Agricola,  the  fickle  and  rebellious  Wittenberg 
professor,  seized  on  Luther's  denunciations  of  the  Law,  more 
particularly  subsequent  to  the  spring  of  1537,  and  built 
them  up  into  a  fantastic  Antinomian  system,  at  the  same 
time  rounding  on  Luther,  and  even  more  on  the  cautious 
and  reticent  Melanchthon,  for  refusing  to  proceed  along  the 
road  on  which  they  had  ventured.  In  support  of  his  views 
he  appealed  to  such  sayings  of  Luther's,  as,  the  Law  "  was 
not  made  for  the  just,"  and,  was  "a  gallows  only  meant  for 

He  showed  that,  whereas  Luther  had  formerly  refused  to 
recognise  any  repentance  due  to  fear  of  the  menaces  of  the 
Law,  he  had  come  to  hold  up  the  terrors  of  the  Law  before 
the  eyes  of  sinners.  As  a  matter  of  fact  Luther  did,  at  a 
later  date,  teach  that  justifying  faith  was  preceded  by  a 
contrition  produced  by  the  Law  ;  such  repentance  due  to 
fear  was  excited  by  God  Almighty  in  the  man  deprived  of 
moral  freedom,  as  in  a  "  materia  passiva." — The  following 

1  Cp.  the  passages  cited  above,  p.  9  ff.,  and  vols.  iii.  and  iv. 


theses  were  issued  as  Agricola's  :  "1.  The  Law  [the 
Decalogue]  does  not  deserve  to  be  called  the  Word  of  God. 
2.  Even  should  you  be  a  prostitute,  a  cuckold,  an  adulterer 
or  any  other  kind  of  sinner,  yet,  so  long  as  you  believe,  you 
are  on  the  road  to  salvation.  3.  If  you  are  sunk  in  the 
depths  of  sin,  if  only  you  believe,  you  are  really  in  a  state  of 
grace.  4.  The  Decalogue  belongs  to  the  petty  sessions,  not 
to  the  pulpit.  11.  The  words  of  Peter  :  '  That  by  good 
works  you  may  make  sure  your  calling  and  election ' 
[2  Peter  i.  10]  are  all  rubbish.  12.  So  soon  as  you  begin  to 
fancy  that  Christianity  requires  this  or  that,  or  that  people 
should  be  good,  honest,  moral,  holy  and  chaste,  you  have 
already  rent  asunder  the  Gospel  [Luke,  ch.  vi.]."1 

In  his  counter  theses  Luther  indignantly  rejected  such 
opinions  :  "  the  deduction  is  not  valid,"  he  says,  for  instance, 
"  when  people  make  out,  that  what  is  not  necessary  for 
justification,  either  at  the  outset,  later,  or  at  the  end,  should 
not  to  be  taught  "  (as  obligatory),  e.g.  the  keeping  of  the 
Law,  personal  co-operation  and  good  works.  "  Even 
though  the  Law  be  useless  to  justification,  still  it  does  not 
follow  that  it  is  to  be  made  away  with,  or  not  to  be  taught."2 

Luther  was  the  more  indignant  at  the  open  opposition 
manifest  in  his  own  neighbourhood  and  at  the  yet  worse 
things  that  were  being  whispered,  because  he  feared,  that, 
owing  to  the  friendly  understanding  between  Agricola, 
Jacob  Schenk  and  others,  the  new  movement  might  extend 
abroad.  The  doctrine,  in  its  excesses,  seemed  to  him  as 
compromising  as  the  teaching  of  Carlstadt  and  the  doings  of 
the  fanatics  in  former  days.     In  reality  it  did  embody  a 

1  It  was  Luther  himself  who  published  the  Antinomian  theses  in  two 
series  on  Dec.  1,  1537.  Cp.  "  Opp.  lat.  var.,"  4,  p.  420  sqq.  The  most 
offensive  of  these  theses  Luther  described  as  the  outcome  of  Agricola's 
teaching  and  attributed  them  to  one  of  the  latter's  pupils  ;  Agricola, 
however,  refused  to  admit  that  the  propositions  were  his.  Cp.  Kostlin- 
Kawerau  (2,  p.  458),  who,  after  attempting  to  harmonise  Luther's  earlier 
and  later  teaching  on  the  Law,  proceeds  :  "  He  paid  no  heed  to  the  fact 
that  Agricola  was  seeking  to  root  sin  out  of  the  heart  of  the  believer, 
though  in  a  way  all  his  own,  and  which  Luther  distrusted,  nor  did  he 
make  any  distinction  between  what  Agricola  merely  hinted  at  and 
what  others  carried  to  extremes  :  in  the  one  he  already  saw  the  other 
embodied.  All  this  was  characteristic  enough  of  Luther's  way  of 
conducting  controversy." 

2  "  Opp.  lat.  var.,"  4,  p.  434  (Thes.  17),  428  (Thes.  10). 


fanatical  doctrine  and  an  extremely  dangerous  pseudo- 
theology ;  in  Antinomianism  the  pseudo-mystical  ideas 
concerning  freedom  and  inner  experience  which  from  the 
very  beginning  had  brought  Luther  into  conflict  with  the 
"  Law,"  culminated  in  a  sort  of  up-to-date  gnosticism. 

We  now  find  Luther,  in  the  teeth  of  his  previous  state- 
ments, declaring  that  "  Whoever  makes  away  with  the  Law, 
makes  away  with  the  Gospel."1  He  says  :  "  Agricola 
perverts  our  doctrine,  which  is  the  solace  of  consciences, 
and  seeks  by  its  means  to  set  up  the  freedom  of  the  flesh  "  ;2 
the  grace  preached  by  Agricola  was  really  nothing  more  than 
immoral  licence.3 

The  better  to  counter  the  new  movement  Luther  at  once 
proceeded  to  modify  his  teaching  concerning  the  Law.  In 
this  wise  Antinomianism  exercised  on  him  a  restraining 
influence,  and  was  to  some  extent  of  service  to  his  doctrine 
and  undertaking,  warning  him,  as  the  fanatic  movement 
had  done  previously,  of  certain  rocks  to  be  avoided. 

Luther  now  came  to  praise  Melanchthon's  view  of  the 
Law,  which  hitherto  had  not  appealed  to  him,  and  declared 
in  his  Table-Talk  :  If  the  Law  is  done  away  with  in  the 
Church,  that  will  spell  the  end  of  all  knowledge  of  sin.4 

This  last  utterance,  dating  from  March,  1537,  is  the  first 
to  forebode  the  controversy  about  to  commence,  which  was 
to  cause  Luther  so  much  anxiety  but  which  at  the  same 
time  affords  us  so  good  an  insight  into  his  ethics  and,  no  less, 
into  his  character.  Even  more  noteworthy  are  the  two 
sermons  in  which  he  expounds  his  standpoint  as  against  that 
of  Agricola,  whom,  however,  he  does  not  name.5 

The  first  step  taken  by  Luther  at  the  University  against 
the  Antinomian  movement  was  the  Disputation  of  Dec.  18, 
1537.  For  this  he  drew  up  a  list  of  weighty  theses.  When 
the  Disputation  was  announced  everyone  was  aware  that  it 
was  aimed  at  a  member  of  the  Wittenberg  Professorial  staff, 
at  one,  moreover,  whom  Luther  himself,  as  dean,  had 
authorised  to  deliver  lectures  on  theology  at  Wittenberg. 
When  Agricola  failed  even  to  put  in  an  appearance  at  the 

1  Mathesius,  "  Tischreden,"  p.  352.  2  lb.         3  lb.,  p.  357. 

4  lb.,  p.  403. 

5  "  Werke,"  Erl.  ed.,  132,  p.  153,  Sermon  of  July  1,  5th  Sunday  after 
Trinity,  and  ib.,  142,  p.  178,  Sermon  of  Sep.  30,  18th  Sunday  after 
Trinity.  Cp.  Buchwald,  "  Ungedruckte  Predigten  Luthers,"  3, 
p.  108  ft    Kostlin-Kawerau,  2,  p.  457. 


Disputation,  as  though  it  in  no  way  concerned  him,  and  also 
continued  to  "agitate  secretly"  against  the  Wittenberg 
doctrine,  Luther,  in  a  letter  addressed  to  Agricola  on  Jan.  6, 
1538,  withdrew  from  him  his  faculty  to  teach,  and  even 
demanded  that  he  should  forswear  theology  altogether  ("a 
theologia  in  Mum  abstinere  ") ;  if  he  now  wished  to  deliver 
lectures  he  would  have  to  ask  permission  "  of  the  University  " 
(where  Luther's  influence  was  paramount).1  This  was  a 
severe  blow  for  Agricola  and  his  family.  His  wife  called  on 
Luther,  dropped  a  humble  curtsey  and  assured  him  that  in 
future  her  husband  would  do  whatever  he  was  told.  This 
seems  to  have  mollified  Luther.  Agricola  himself  also 
plucked  up  courage  to  go  to  him,  only  to  be  informed  that  he 
would  have  to  appear  at  the  second  Disputation  on  the 
subject — for  which  Luther  had  drawn  up  a  fresh  set  of 
theses — and  there  make  a  public  recantation.  Driven  into 
a  corner,  Agricola  agreed  to  these  terms.  At  the  second 
Disputation  (Jan.  12,  1538)  he  did,  as  a  matter  of  fact, 
give  explanations  deemed  satisfactory  by  Luther,  by  whom 
he  was  rewarded  with  an  assurance  of  confidence.  He 
was,  nevertheless,  excluded  from  all  academical  office,  and 
though  the  Elector  of  Saxony  permitted  him  to  act  as 
preacher  this  sanction  was  not  extended  by  Bugenhagen  to 
any  preaching  at  Wittenberg.2  A  third  and  fourth  set  of 
theses  drawn  up  by  Luther,3  who  could  not  do  enough 
against  the  new  heresy,  date  from  the  interval  previous  to 
the  settlement,  though  no  Disputation  was  held  on  them 
that  the  peace  might  not  be  broken. 

Agricola  nevertheless  was  staunch  in  his  contention,  that, 
in  his  earlier  writings,  Luther  had  expressed  himself  quite 
differently,  and  this  was  a  fact  which  it  was  difficult  to 

On  account  of  Agricola's  renewal  of  activity,  Luther,  on 
Sep.  13,  1538,  held  another  lengthy  and  severe  Disputation 
against  him  and  his  supporters,  the  "  hotheads  and  avowed 
hypocrites."  For  this  occasion  he  produced  a  fifth  and  last 
set  of  theses.  He  also  insisted  that  his  opponent  should 
publicly  eat  his  words.     This  time  Luther  admitted  that 

1  "  Brief wechsel,"  11,  p.  323. 

2  Cp.  Drews,  "  Disputationen  Luthers,"  pp.  382,  388,  394 ;  G. 
Kawerau,  "  Joh.  Agricola,"  1881,  p.  194. 

3  "  Opp.  lat.  var.,"  4,  p.  430  sq. 


some  of  his  own  previous  statements  had  been  injudicious, 
though  he  was  disposed  to  excuse  them.  In  the  beginning 
they  had  been  preaching  to  people  whose  consciences  were 
troubled  and  who  stood  in  need  of  a  different  kind  of 
language  than  those  whose  consciences  had  first  to  be 
stirred  up.  Agricola,  finding  himself  in  danger  of  losing  his 
daily  bread,  yielded,  and  even  agreed  to  allow  Luther  him- 
self to  pen  the  draft  of  his  retractation,  hoping  thus  to  get 
off  more  easily. 

Instead  of  this,  and  in  order,  as  he  said,  to  "  paint  him  as 
a  cowardly,  proud  and  godless  man,"  Luther  wrote  a  tract 
("  Against  the  Antinomians  ")  addressed  to  the  preacher 
Caspar  Giittel,  which  might  take  the  place  of  the  retractation 
agreed  upon.1  It  was  exceedingly  rude  to  Agricola.  It 
represented  him  as  a  man  of  "  unusual  arrogance  and  pre- 
sumption," "  who  presumed  to  have  a  mind  of  his  own,  but 
one  that  was  really  intent  on  self-glorification  "  ;  he  was  a 
standing  proof  that  in  the  world  "  the  devil  liveth  and 
reigneth  "  ;  by  his  means  the  devil  was  set  on  raising 
another  storm  against  Luther's  Evangel,  like  those  others 
raised  by  Carlstadt,  Munzer,  the  Anabaptists  and  so  forth.2 
In  spite  of  all  this  the  writing,  according  to  a  statement 
made  by  its  author  to  Melanchthon,  was  all  too  mild  ('*  tarn 
levis  fui"),  particularly  now  that  Agricola's  great  "ob- 
stinacy "  was  becoming  so  patent.3 

Luther  even  spoke  of  the  excommunication  which  should 
be  launched  against  so  contumacious  a  man.  As  a  penalty 
he  caused  him  to  be  excluded  from  among  the  candidates 
for  the  office  of  Dean,  and  when  Agricola  complained  to  the 
Rector  and  to  Bugenhagen  of  Luther's  "  tyranny  "  both 
refused  to  listen  to  him.4 

In  the  meantime  Agricola  expressed  his  complete  sub- 
mission in  a  printed  statement,  which,  however,  was 
probably  not  meant  seriously,  and  thereupon,  on  Feb.  7, 
1539,  was  nominated  by  the  Elector  a  member  of  the 
Consistory.  He  at  once  profited  by  this  mark  of  favour 
to  present  at  Court  a  written  complaint  against  Luther, 

1  "  Werke,"  Erl.  ed.,  32,  p.  1  ff.  (publ.  early  in  1539).  Also  "  Briefe," 
ed.  De  Wette,  5,  p.  147  ff. 

2  "  Briefe,"  ib.,  p.  154. 

3  To  Melanchthon,  Feb.  2,  1539,  "  Brief wechsel,"  12,  p.  84. 

4  "  Werke,"  Erl.  ed.,  61,  p.  35  (Table-Talk).  Cp.  Kostlin-Kawerau, 
2,  p.  462  f. 


referring  particularly  to  the  scurrilous  circular  letter  sent  to 
Caspar  Guttel.  He  protested  that,  for  wellnigh  three  years, 
he  had  submitted  to  being  trodden  under  foot  by  Luther, 
and  had  slunk  along  at  his  heels  like  a  wretched  cur,  though 
there  had  been  no  end  to  the  insult  and  abuse  heaped  upon 
him.  What  Luther  reproached  him  with  he  had  never 
taught.  The  latter  had  accused  him  of  many  things  which 
he  "  neither  would,  could  nor  might  admit."1 

Luther  in  his  turn,  in  a  writing,  appealed  to  the  Elector 
and  his  supreme  tribunal.  In  vigorous  language  he  ex- 
plained to  the  Court,  utterly  incapable  though  it  was  of 
deciding  on  so  delicate  a  question,  why  he  had  been  obliged  to 
withstand  the  false  opinions  of  his  opponent  which  the  Bible 
condemned.  Agricola  had  dared  to  call  Luther's  doctrine 
unclean,  "  a  doctrine  on  behalf  of  which  our  beloved  Prince 
and  Lord  wagered  and  imperilled  land  and  subjects,  life 
and  limb,  not  to  speak  of  his  soul  and  ours."  In  other  words, 
to  differ  from  Luther  was  high  treason  against  the  sovereign 
who  agreed  with  him.  He  sneers  at  Agricola  in  a  tone 
which  shows  how  great  licence  he  allowed  himself  in  his 
dealings  with  the  Elector :  Agricola  had  drawn  up  a 
Catechism,  best  nicknamed  a  "  Cackism  "  ;  Master  Grickel 
was  ridden  by  an  angry  imp,  etc.  So  far  was  he  from 
offering  any  excuse  for  his  virulence  against  Agricola  that  he 
even  expressed  his  regret  for  having  been  "  so  friendly  and 

To  the  same  authority,  as  though  to  it  belonged  judgment 
in  ecclesiastical  matters,  Melanchthon,  Jonas,  Bugenhagen 
and  Amsdorf  sent  a  joint  memorandum  in  which  they 
recommended  a  truce,  "  somewhat  timidly  pointing  out  to 
the  Elector,  that  Luther  was  hardly  a  man  who  could  be 
expected  to  retract."3 

The  Court  Councillors  now  took  the  whole  matter  into 
their  hands  and  it  was  settled  to  lodge  a  formal  suit  against 
Agricola.  The  latter,  however,  accepted  a  call  from  Elector 
Joachim  of  Brandenburg,  to  act  as  Court  preacher,  and,  in 
spite  of  having  entered  into  recognisances  not  to  quit  the 

1  (In  March,  1540)  see  C.  E.  Forstemann,  "  N.  Urkundenbuch  zur 
Gesch.  der  Kirchenreformation,"  1,  1842,  reprinted,  p.  317  ff. 

2  16.,  p.  321  ff.;  also  in  "Werke,"  ed.  Walch,  20,  p.  2061  fi\,  and 
"  Brief e,"  ed.  De  Wette,  6,  p.  256  ff. 

3  Forstemann,  ib.,  p.  325.     The  quotation  is  from  G.   Kawerau, 
Joh.  Agricola,"  "  RE.  f.  prot.  Theol." 


town,  he  made  haste  to  get  himself  gone  to  his  new  post  in 
Berlin  (Aug.,  1540).  On  a  summons  from  Wittenberg,  and 
seeing  that,  unless  he  made  peace  with  Luther,  he  could  do 
nothing  at  Berlin,  he  consented  to  issue  a  circular  letter  to 
the  preachers,  magistrates  and  congregation  of  Eisleben1 
"  which  might  have  satisfied  even  Luther's  exorbitant 
demands."2  He  explained  that  he  had  in  the  meantime 
thought  better  of  the  points  under  discussion,  and  even 
promised  "  to  believe  and  teach  as  the  Church  at  Witten- 
berg believes  and  teaches." 

In  1545,  when  he  came  to  Wittenberg  with  his  wife  and 
daughter,  Luther,  who  still  bore  him  a  grudge,  whilst 
allowing  them  to  pay  him  a  visit,  refused  to  see  Agricola 
himself.  On  another  occasion  it  was  only  thanks  to  the 
friendly  intervention  of  Catherine  Bora  that  Luther  con- 
sented to  glance  at  a  kindly  letter  from  him,  but  of  any 
reconciliation  he  would  not  hear.  Regarding  this  last  inci- 
dent we  have  a  note  of  Agricola's  own  :  "  Domina  Ketha, 
rectrix  cceli  et  terrce,  luno  coniunx  et  soror  Iovis,  who  rules 
her  husband  as  she  wills,  has  for  once  in  a  way  spoken  a 
good  word  on  my  behalf.    Jonas  likewise  did  the  same."  3 

Luther's  hostility  continued  to  the  day  of  his  death.  He 
found  justification  for  his  harshness  and  for  his  refusal  to  be 
reconciled  in  the  evident  inconstancy  and  turbulence  of  his 
opponent.  For  a  while,  too,  he  was  disposed  to  credit  the 
news  that  Antinomianism  was  on  the  increase  in  Saxony, 
Thuringia  and  elsewhere. 

Not  only  was  Agricola's  fickleness  not  calculated  to 
inspire  confidence,  but  his  life  also  left  much  to  be  desired 
from  the  moral  standpoint.  Though  Luther  was  perhaps 
unaware  of  it,  we  learn  from  Agricola's  own  private  Notes, 
that  the  "  vices  in  which  the  young  take  delight  "  had 
assailed  him  in  riper  years  even  more  strongly  than  in  his 
youth.  Seckendorff  also  implies  that  he  did  not  lead  a 
"  regular  life."4 

In  1547  Agricola,  together  with  Julius  Pflug,  Bishop  of 
Naumburg,  and  Helding,  auxiliary  of  Mayence,  drew  up  the 
Augsburg    Interim.      As    General    Superintendent    of    the 

1  Forstemann,  ib.,  p.  349.  2  Kostlin-Kawerau,  2,  p.  464. 

3  E.  Kroker,  "  Katharina  von  Bora,"  1906,  p.  280,  from  Agricola's 
Notes,  pub.  by  E.  Thiele. 

4  Cp.  Kawerau  in  the  Article  referred  to  above,  p.  20,  n.  3. 


Brandenburg  district  and  at  the  invitation  of  his  Elector  he 
assisted  in  the  following  year  at  the  religious  Conferences  of 
the  Saxon  theologians.  He  died  at  Berlin,  Sep.  22,  1566, 
of  a  disease  resulting  from  the  plague. 

Of  the  feeling  called  forth  in  circles  friendly  to  Luther  by 
Agricola's  part  in  the  Interim  we  have  proof  in  the  preface  which 
introduces  in  the  edition  of  1549  Luther's  letter  of  1539  to  the 
Saxon  Court.  Here  we  read  :  If  the  Eisleben  fellow  (Agricola) 
"  was  ever  a  dissolute  sharper,  who  secretly  promoted  false 
doctrine  and  made  use  of  the  favour  and  applause  of  the  pious 
as  a  cloak  for  his  knavery,"  much  more  has  this  now  become 
apparent  by  his  outcry  concerning  the  Interim  and  the  alleged 
good  it  does.  The  editors  recall  the  fact,  that  "  Our  worthy  father 
in  God,  Dr.  Martin  Luther  of  happy  memory,  shortly  before  his 
end,  in  the  presence  of  Dr.  Pommer,  Philip,  Creutziger,  Major, 
Jonas  and  D.  Paulus  Benedictus  "  spoke  as  follows  :  "  Eisleben 
(Agricola)  is  not  merely  ridden  by  the  devil  but  the  devil  himself 
lodges  in  him."  In  proof  of  the  latter  statement  they  add,  that 
trustworthy  persons,  who  had  good  grounds  for  their  opinion, 
had  declared,  that  "  it  was  the  simple  truth  that  devils  had  visibly 
appeared  in  Eisleben's  house  and  study,  and  at  times  had  made 
a  great  disturbance  and  clatter  ;  whence  it  is  clear  that  he  is  the 
devil's  own  in  body  and  soul."  "  The  truth,"  they  conclude,  "  is 
clear  and  manifest.  God  gives  us  warnings  enough  in  the  writings 
of  pious  and  learned  persons  and  also  by  signs  in  the  sky  and  in 
the  waters.  Let  whoever  wills  be  admonished  and  warned.  For 
to  each  one  it  is  a  matter  of  life  eternal ;  to  which  may  God  assist 
us  through  Christ  our  Lord,  Amen."1 

A  writing  of  Melanchthon's,  dating  from  the  last  months  of  his 
life  and  brought  to  light  only  in  1894,  gives  further  information 
concerning  a  later  phase  of  the  Antinomian  controversy  as  fought 
out  between  Agricola  and  Melanchthon. 2 

Melanchthon,  for  all  his  supposed  kindliness,  here  empties  the 
vials  of  his  wrath  on  Johann  Agricola  because  the  latter  had 
vehemently  assailed  his  thesis  "  Bona  opera  sunt  necessaria." 
As  a  matter  of  fact,  so  he  writes,  he  bothered  himself  as  little 
about  Agricola's  "  preaching,  slander,  abuse,  insistence  and 
threats  "  as  about  the  "  cackle  of  some  crazy  gander."  But 
Christian  people  were  becoming  scandalised  at  "  this  grand 
preacher  of  blasphemy  "  and  were  beginning  to  suspect  his  own 
(Melanchthon's)  faith.  Hence  he  would  have  them  know  that 
Agricola's  component  parts  were  an  "  asinine  righteousness,  a 
superstitious  arrogance  and  an  Epicurean  belly-service."  To  his 
thesis  he  could  not  but  adhere  to  his  last  breath,  even  were  he  to 
be  torn  to  pieces  with  red-hot  pincers.  He  had  refrained  from 
adding  the  words   "  ad  salutem "   after   "  necessaria "   lest  the 

1  "  Luthers  Briefe,"  ed.  De  Wette,  6,  p.  256  ft 

2  Melanchthon  to  Willibald  Ransberck  (Ramsbeck),  Jan.  26,  1560, 
publ.  by  Nic.  Muller  in  "  Zeitschr.  fur  KG.,"  14,  1894,  p.  139. 


unwary  should  think  of  some  merit.  The  "  ad  salutem  "  was  an 
addition  of  Agricola's,  that  "  foolish  man,"  who  had  thrust  it  on 
him  by  means  of  a  "  shameless  and  barefaced  lie."  He  is  anxious 
to  win  his  spurs  off  the  Lutherans.  Yet  donkeys  of  his  ilk  d^* 
understand  nothing  in  the  matter,  and  God  will  "  punish  these 
blasphemers  and  disturbers  of  the  Churches.  But  in  order  that 
"  a  final  end  may  at  length  be  put  to  the  evil  doing,  slander,  abuse 
and  cavilling  it  will,"  he  says,  "  be  necessary  for  God  to  send  the 
Turk  ;  nothing  else  will  help  in  such  a  case."  Melanchthon  com- 
pares himself  to  Joseph,  who  was  sold  by  his  brethren.  If  Joseph 
had  to  endure  this  "in  the  first  Church,"  what  then  "  will  be  my 
fate  in  the  extreme  old  age  of  this  mad  world  ('  extrema  mundi 
delira  senecta  ')  when  licence  wanders  abroad  unrestrained  to 
sully  everything  and  when  such  unspeakably  cruel  hypocrites 
control  our  destinies  ?  I  can  only  pray  to  God  that  He  will 
deign  to  come  to  the  aid  of  His  Church  and  graciously  heal  all 
the  gaping  wounds  dealt  her  by  her  foes.    Amen." 

A  certain  reaction  against  the  Antinomian  tendency,  is, 
as  already  explained,  noticeable  in  Luther's  latter  years  ; 
at  least  he  felt  called  upon  to  revise  a  little  his  former  stand- 
point with  regard  to  the  Law,  the  motive  of  fear,  indifference 
to  sin  and  so  forth,  and  to  remove  it  from  the  danger  of 
abuse.  He  was  also  at  pains  to  contradict  the  view  that 
his  doctrine  of  faith  involved  an  abrogation  of  the  Law. 
"  The  fools  do  not  know,"  he  remarked,  for  instance,  allud- 
ing to  Jacob  Schenk,  "  all  that  faith  has  to  do."1 

In  his  controversy  with  Agricola  we  can  detect  a  tendency 
on  his  part  "  to  revert  to  Melanchthon 's  doctrine  concerning 
repentance."2  He  insisted  far  more  strongly  than  before3 
on  the  necessity  of  preaching  the  Lawr  in  order  to  arouse 
contrition  ;  he  even  went  so  far  along  Catholic  lines  as  to 
assert,  that  "  Penance  is  sorrow  for  sin  with  the  resolve  to 
lead  a  better  life."4  He  also  admitted,  that,  at  the  outset, 
he  had  said  things  which  the  Antinomians  now  urged 
against  the  Law,  though  he  also  strove  to  show  that  he  had 
taken  pains  to  qualify  and  safeguard  what  he  had  said.  Nor 
indeed  can  Luther  ever  have  expected  that  all  the  strong 
things  he  had  once  hurled  against  the  Law  and  its  demands 
would  ever  be  used  to  build  up  a  new  moral  theology. 

And  yet,  even  at  the  height  of  the  Antinomian  contro- 

1  Lauterbach,  "  Tagebuch,"  p.  90.  For  other  statements  of  Luther's 
see  our  vol.  iii.,  p.  401.  2  Loofs,  ib.,  p.  858. 

3  On  Luther's  attitude  towards  penance  see  our  vol.  iii.,  pp.  184  fi%. 
196.  4  "  Opp.  lat.  var.,"  4,  p.  424. 


versy,  he  stood  firmly  by  his  thesis  regarding  the  Law,  fear 
and  contrition,  viz.  that  "  Whoever  seeks  to  be  led  to 
repentance  by  the  Law,  will  never  attain  to  it,  but,  on  the 
contrary,  will  only  turn  his  back  on  it  the  more  "  ;x  to  this 
he  was  ever  true. 

"Luther,"  says  Adolf  Harnack,  "could  never  doubt  that  only 
the  Christian  who  has  been  vanquished  by  the  Gospel  is  capable  of 
true  repentance,  and  that  the  Law  can  work  no  real  repentance."2 
The  fact  however  remains,  that,  at  least  if  we  take  his  words  as 
they  stand,  we  do  find  in  Luther  a  doctrine  of  repentance  which 
does  not  claim  faith  in  the  forgiveness  of  sins  so  exclusively  as 
its  source.3  The  fact  is  that  his  statements  do  not  tally. 4  Other 
Protestant  theologians  will  have  it  that  no  change  took  place  in 
Luther's  views  on  penance,5  or  at  least  that  the  attempts  so  far 
made  to  solve  the  problem  are  not  satisfactory.6  Stress  should, 
however,  be  laid  on  the  fact,  that,  during  his  contest  with  Anti- 
nomianism  Luther  insisted  that  it  was  necessary  "  to  drive  men 
to  penance  even  by  the  terrors  of  the  Law,"7  and  that,  alluding 
to  his  earlier  statements,  he  admits  having  had  much  to  learn  : 
"  I  have  been  made  to  experience  the  words  of  St.  Peter,  '  Grow 
in  the  knowledge  of  the  Lord.'  " 

Of  the  converted,  i.e.  of  those  justified  by  the  certainty  of 
salvation,  he  says  in  1538  in  his  Disputations  against  Agricola  : 
The  pious  Christian  as  such  "  is  dead  to  the  Law  and  serves  it 
not,  but  lies  in  the  bosom  of  grace,  secure  in  the  righteousness 
imputed  to  him  by  God.  .  .  .  But,  so  far  as  he  is  still  in  the 
flesh,  he  serves  the  law  of  sin,  repulsive  as  it  may  sound  that  a 
saint  should  be  subject  to  the  law  of  sin."8  If  Luther  finds  in  the 
saint  or  devout  man  such  a  double  life,  a  free  man  side  by  side 
with  a  slave,  holiness  side  by  side  with  sin,  this  is  on  account  of 
the  concupiscence,  or  as  Luther  says  elsewhere,  original  sin, 
which  still  persists,  and  the  results  of  which  he  regarded  as  really 
sinful  in  God's  sight. 

Elsewhere  in  the  same  Disputations  he  speaks  of  the  Law  as 
contemptuously  as  ever  :  "  The  Law  can  work  in  the  soul  nothing 
but  wanhope  ;  it  fills  us  with  shame  ;  to  lead  us  to  seek  God  is 
not  in  the  nature  and  might  of  the  Law  ;    this  is  the  doing  of 

1  See  above,  p.  11,  n.  2.  2  "  DG.,"  34,  p.  842. 

3  Cp.  Loofs,  ib.,  p.  860,  n.  2  and  4 ;  790,  n.  7,  and  Harnack,  ib. 
*  Harnack  (loc.  cit.)  points  out  that  Luther's  statements  on  the 
subject  do  not  agree  when  examined  in  detail. 

5  E.g.,  Lipsius,  "Luthers  Lehre  von  der  Busse,"  1892. 

6  E.g.,  Galley,  "  Die  Busslehre  Luthers  und  ihre  Darstellung  in 
neuester  Zeit,"  1900. 

7  To  the  latter  passage  ("  Werke,"  Erl.  ed.,  32,  p.  7)  E.  F.  Fischer 
draws  attention  ("Luthers  Sermo  de  poenitentia  von  1518,"  1906, 
p.  36).  Galley  (loc.  cit.,  p.  20)  had  also  referred  to  the  same  as  being 
a  further  development  of  Luther's  doctrine  on  penance. — On  Luther's 
shifting  attitude  in  regard  to  the  motive  of  fear  see  our  vol.  iv.,  p.  455  f. 

8  "  Disputationes,"  ed.  Drews,  p.  452. 


"  another  fellow,"  viz.  of  the  Gospel  with  its  preaching  of  for- 
giveness of  sins  in  Christ. l  It  is  true  he  adds  in  a  kindlier  vein : 
"  The  Law  ought  not  so  greatly  to  terrify  those  who  are  justified 
('  nee  deberet  ita  terrere  iustificatos  ')  for  it  is  already  much  chas- 
tened by  our  justification  in  Christ.  But  the  devil  comes  and 
makes  the  Law  harsh  and  repellent  to  those  who  are  justified. 
Thus,  through  the  devil's  fault,  many  are  filled  with  fear  who  have 
no  reason  to  fear.  But  [and  now  follows  the  repudiation  of  the 
extreme  theories  of  the  Antinomians],  the  Law  is  not  on  that 
account  abolished  in  the  Church,  or  its  preaching  suppressed  ; 
for  even  the  pious  have  some  remnant  of  sin  abiding  in  their 
flesh,  which  must  be  purified  by  the  Law.  ...  To  them,  how- 
ever, the  Law  must  be  preached  under  a  milder  form  ;  they  should 
be  admonished  in  this  wise  :  You  are  now  washed  clean  in  the 
Blood  of  Christ.  Yield  therefore  your  bodies  to  serve  justice 
and  lay  aside  the  lusts  of  the  flesh  that  you  may  not  become  like 
to  the  world.  Be  zealous  for  the  righteousness  of  good  works." 
There  too  he  also  teaches  how  the  "  Law  "  must  be  brought 
home  to  hardened  sinners.  In  their  case  no  "  mitigation  "  is 
allowable.  On  the  contrary,  they  are  to  be  told :  You  will  be 
damned,  God  hates  you,  you  are  full  of  unrighteousness,  your  lot 
is  that  of  Cain,  etc.  For,  "  before  Justification,  the  Law  rules, 
and  terrifies  all  who  come  in  contact  with  it,  it  convicts  and 

Among  the  most  instructive  utterances  touching  the  Anti- 
nomians  is  the  following  one  on  sin,  more  particularly  on  breach 
of  wedlock,  which  may  be  given  here  as  amplifying  Luther's 
statements  on  the  subject  recorded  in  our  vol.  hi.  (pp.  245,  256  f., 
etc.)  :  The  Antinomians  taught,  so  he  says,  that,  if  a  man  had 
broken  wedlock,  he  had  only  to  believe  ("  tantum  ut  crederet  ")  and 
he  would  find  a  Gracious  God.  But  surely  that  was  no  Church 
where  so  horrible  a  doctrine  ("  horribilis  vox  ")  was  heard.  .  On 
the  contrary  what  was  to  be  taught  was,  that,  in  the  first  place, 
there  were  adulterers  and  other  sinners  who  acknowledged  their 
sin,  made  good  resolutions  against  it  and  possessed  real  faith, 
such  as  these  found  mercy  with  God.  In  the  second  place,  how- 
ever, there  were  others  who  neither  repented  of  their  sin  nor 
wished  to  forsake  it ;  such  men  had  no  faith,  and  a  preacher  who 
should  discourse  to  them  concerning  faith  (i.e.  fiducial  faith) 
would  merely  be  seducing  and  deceiving  them. 

4.  The  Certainty  of  Salvation  and  its  relation  to  Morality 

How  did  Luther  square  his  system  of  morality  with  his 
principal  doctrine  of  Faith  and  Justification,  and  where  did 
he  find  any  ground  for  the  performance  of  good  works  ? 

In  the  main  he  made  everything  to  proceed  from  and  rest 
upon  a  firm,  personal  certainty  of  salvation.    The  artificial 

1  lb.,  p.  402.  2  lb.,  pp.  402-404. 


system  thus  built  up,  so  far  as  it  is  entitled  to  be  called  a 
system  at  all,  requires  only  to  be  set  forth  in  order  to  be 
appreciated  as  it  deserves.  It  will  be  our  duty  to  consider 
Luther's  various  statements,  and  finally  his  own  summary, 
made  late  in  life,  of  the  conclusions  he  had  reached. 

Certainty  of  Salvation  as  the  cause  and  aim  of  True  Morality. 
The  Psychological  Explanation 

Quite  early  Luther  had  declared  :  "  The  '  fides  specialist 
or  assurance  of  salvation,  of  itself  impels  man  to  true 
morality."  For,  "  faith  brings  along  with  it  love,  peace, 
joy  and  hope.  ...  In  this  faith  all  works  are  equal  and  one 
as  good  as  the  other,  and  any  difference  between  works 
disappears,  whether  they  be  great  or  small,  short  or  long, 
few  or  many  ;  for  works  are  not  pleasing  [to  God]  in  them- 
selves but  on  account  of  faith.  ...  A  Christian  who  lives  in 
this  faith  has  no  need  to  be  taught  good  works,  but,  what- 
ever occurs  to  him,  that  he  does,  and  everything  is  well 
done."  Such  are  his  words  in  his  "  Sermon  von  den  gut  en 
Wercken  "  to  Duke  Johann  of  Saxony  in  1520. 1 

He  frequently  repeats,  that  "  Faith  brings  love  along  with 
it,"  which  impels  us  to  do  good. 

He  enlarges  on  this  in  the  festival  sermons  in  his  Church- 
Postils,  and  says :  When  I  am  made  aware  by  faith,  that, 
through  the  Son  of  God  Who  died  for  me,  I  am  able  to 
"  resist  and  flaunt  sin,  death,  devil,  hell  and  every  ill,  then 
I  cannot  but  love  Him  in  return  and  be  well  disposed 
towards  Him,  keeping  His  commandments  and  doing 
lovingly  and  gladly  everything  He  asks  "  ;  the  heart  will 
then  show  itself  full  "  of  gratitude  and  love.  But,  seeing 
that  God  stands  in  no  need  of  our  works  and  that  He  has 
not  commanded  us  to  do  anything  else  for  Him  but  to 
praise  and  thank  Him,  therefore  such  a  man  must  proceed 
to  devote  himself  entirely  to  his  neighbour,  to  serve,  help 
and  counsel  him  freely  and  without  reward."2 

All  this,  as  Luther  says  in  his  "  Von  der  Freyheyt  eynes 
Christen  Menschen,"  must  be  performed  "  by  a  free,  willing, 
cheerful  and  unrequited  serving  of  our  neighbour  "  ;3    it 

1  "  Werke,"  Weim.  ed.,  6,  p.  206  f.  ;   Erl.  ed.,  162,  p.  127. 

2  lb.,  Erl.  ed.,  152,  p.  40. 

3  16.,  Weim.  ed.,  7,  p.  36  ;   Erl.  ed.,  27,  p.  196. 


must  be  done  "  cheerfully  and  gladly  for  Christ's  sake  Who 
has  done  so  much  for  us."1  "  That  same  Law  which  once 
was  hateful  to  free-will,"  he  says  in  his  Commentary  on 
Galatians,  "  now  [i.e.  after  we  have  received  the  faith  and 
assurance  of  salvation]  becomes  quite  pleasant  since  love  is 
poured  into  our  hearts  by  the  Holy  Ghost.  .  .  .  We  now 
are  lovers  of  the  Law."2  From  the  wondrous  well-spring  of 
the  imputed  merits  of  Christ  there  comes  first  and  foremost 
prayer  ;  if  only  we  cling  "  trustfully  to  the  promise  of 
grace,"  then  "  the  heart  will  unceasingly  beat  and  pulsate 
to  such  prayers  as  the  following  :  O,  beloved  Father,  may 
Thy  Name  be  hallowed,  Thy  Kingdom  come,  Thy  Will  be 
done."3  But  all  is  not  prayer  and  holy  desire  ;  even  when 
the  "  soul  has  been  cleansed  by  faith,"  the  Christian  still 
must  struggle  against  sin  and  against  the  body  "  in  order 
to  deaden  its  wantonness."4  The  Christian  will  set  himself 
to  acquire  chastity  ;  "in  this  work  a  good,  strong  faith  is 
of  great  help,  more  so  here  than  anything  else."  And  why  ? 
Because  whoever  is  assured  of  salvation  in  Christ  and 
"  enjoys  the  grace  of  God,  also  delights  in  spiritual  purity. 
.  .  .  Under  such  a  faith  the  Spirit  without  doubt  will  tell 
him  how  to  avoid  evil  thoughts  and  everything  opposed  to 
chastity.  For  as  faith  in  the  Divine  mercy  persists  and 
works  all  good,  so  also  it  never  ceases  to  inform  us  of  all  that 
is  pleasing  or  displeasing  to  God."5 

Whence  does  our  will  derive  the  ability  and  strength  to 
wage  this  struggle  to  the  end  ?  Only  from  the  assurance  of 
salvation,  from  its  unshaken  awareness  that  it  has  indeed  a 
Gracious  God.  For  this  certainty  of  faith  sets  one  free, 
first  of  all  from  those  anxieties  with  regard  to  one's  salva- 
tion with  which  the  righteous-by-works  are  plagued  and 
thus  allows  one  to  devote  time  and  strength  to  doing  what 
is  good  ;  secondly  this  faith  in  one's  salvation  teaches  one  how 
to  overcome  the  difficulties  that  stand  in  one's  way.6 

There  was,  however,  an  objection  raised  against  Luther 

1  lb.,  p.  30-189. 

2  "  Comm.  in  ep.  ad.  Gal.,"  3,  p.  365  (Irmischer). 

3  "  Werke,"  Erl.  ed.,  49,  p.  114  f.,  Exposition  of  John  xiv.-xvi. 

4  "  Werke,"  Weim.  ed.,  7,  p.  30  f.  ;  Erl.  ed.,  27,  p.  189  f. 

6  lb.,  6,  p.  269  f.  =  162,  p.  212,  "  Sermon  von  den  guten  Wercken," 

6  Our  account  is  from  Walther  (above,  p.  14,  n.  1),  p.  75  ff.  His 
faithful  rendering  of  Luther's  thought  shows  how  actual  grace  is 


by  his  contemporaries  and  which  even  presented  itself  to  his 
own  mind  :  Why  should  a  lifelong  struggle  and  the  per- 
formance of  good  works  be  requisite  for  a  salvation  of  which 
we  are  already  certain  ?  It  was  re-formulated  even  by 
Albert  Ritschl,  in  whose  work,  "  Rechtfertigung  und 
Versohnung,"  we  find  the  words  :  "  If  one  asks  why  God, 
Who  makes  salvation  to  depend  on  Justification  by  faith, 
prescribes  good  works  at  all,  the  arbitrary  character  of  the 
assumption  becomes  quite  evident."1  In  Luther's  own 
writings  we  repeatedly  hear  the  same  stricture  voiced  :  "If 
sin  is  forgiven  me  gratuitously  by  God's  Mercy  and  is 
blotted  out  in  baptism,  then  there  is  nothing  for  me  to  do." 
People  say,  "  If  faith  is  everything  and  suffices  of  itself  to 
make  us  pious,  why  then  are  good  works  enjoined  ?  "2 

In  order  to  render  Luther's  meaning  adequately  we  must 
emphasise  his  leading  answer  to  such  objections.  He  is 
determined  to  insist  on  good  works,  because,  as  he  says, 
they  are  of  the  utmost  importance  to  the  one  thing  on  which 
everything  else  depends,  viz.  to  faith  and  the  assurance  of 

In  his  "  Sermon  von  den  guten  Wercken,"  which  deserves  to 
be  taken  as  conclusive,  he  declares  outright  that  all  good  works 
are  ordained — for  the  sake  of  faith.  "  Such  works  and  sufferings 
must  be  performed  in  faith  and  in  firm  trust  in  the  Divine  mercy, 
in  order  that,  as  already  stated,  all  works  may  come  under  the 
first  commandment  and  under  faith,  and  that  they  may  serve 
to  exercise  and  strengthen  faith,  on  account  of  which  all  the 
other  commandments  and  works  are  demanded."4  Hence 
morality  is  necessary,  not  primarily  in  order  to  please  God,  to 
obey  Him  and  thus  to  work  out  our  salvation,  but  in  order  to 
strengthen  our  "  fides  specialis  "  in  our  own  salvation,  which 
then  does  all  the  needful.5  It  is  necessary,  as  Luther  says  else- 
where, in  order  to  provide  a  man  with  a  reassuring  token  of  the 
reality  of  his  "  fides  specialis  "  ;  he  may  for  instance  be  tempted 
to  doubt  whether  he  possesses  this  saving  gift  of  God,  though  the 
very  doubt  already  spells  its  destruction  ;  hence  let  him  look  at 
his  works  ;   if  they  are  good,  they  will  tell  him  at  the  dread  hour 

1  34,  p.  460. 

2  "Werke,"  Weim.  ed.,  7,  p.  29  f . ;  Erl.  ed.,  27,  p.  188.  "Von  der 
Freyheyt  eynes  Christen  Menschen."     Cp.  ib.,  Erl.  ed.,  72,  p.  257. 

a  Walther,  ib.,  p.  99. 

4  "  Werke,"  Weim.  ed.,  6,  p.  249  ;    Erl.  ed.,  162,  p.  184. 

5  Cp.  "  Briefe,"  ed.  De  Wette,  where  the  idea  that  faith  "  then  does 
all  the  needful,"  and  that  works  are  a  natural  product  of  faith  is  summed 
up  thus  :    "  Opera  propter  fldem  fiunt" 


of  death  :  Yes,  you  have  the  "faith."1  Strangely  enough  he 
also  takes  the  Bible  passages  which  deal  with  works  performed 
under  grace  as  referring  to  faith,  e.g.  "  If  thou  wilt  enter  into 
life  keep  the  commandments  "  (Mt.  xix.  17)  and,  "  By  good  works 
make  your  calling  and  election  sure  "  (2  Peter  i.  10).  The  latter 
exhortation  of  St.  Peter  signifies  according  to  Luther's  exegesis  : 
"  Take  care  to  strengthen  your  faith,"  from  the  works  "  you  may 
see  whether  you  have  the  faith."2  According  to  St.  Peter 
you  are  to  seek  in  works  merely  "  a  sign  and  token  that  the  faith 
is  there  "  ;  his  meaning  is  not  that  you  "  are  to  do  good  works 
in  order  that  you  may  secure  your  election."  "  We  are  not  to 
fancy  that  thereby  we  can  become  pious."3 

This  thought  is  supplemented  by  another  frequent  exhortation 
of  Luther's  which  concerns  the  consciousness  of  sin  persisting 
even  after  "  justification."  The  sense  of  sin  has,  according  to 
him,  no  other  purpose  than  to  strengthen  us  in  our  trustful  cling- 
ing to  Christ,  for  as  no  one's  faith  is  perfect  we  are  ever  called 
upon  to  fortify  it,  in  which  we  are  aided  by  this  anxiety  concern- 
ing sin  :  "  Though  we  still  feel  sin  within  us  this  is  merely  to 
drive  us  to  faith  and  make  our  faith  stronger,  so  that  despite  our 
feeling  we  may  accept  the  Word  and  cling  with  all  our  heart  and 
conscience  to  Christ  alone,"  in  other  words,  to  follow  Luther's 
own  example  amidst  the  pangs  of  conscience  that  had  plunged 
him  into  "  death  and  hell."4  "  Thus  does  faith,  against  all  feeling 
and  reason,  lead  us  quietly  through  sin,  through  death  and 
through  hell."  "  The  more  faith  waxes,  the  more  the  feeling 
diminishes,  and  vice  versa.  Sins  still  persist  within  us,  e.g.  pride, 
avarice,  anger  and  so  on  and  so  forth,  but  only  in  order  to  move 
us  to  faith."  He  refrains  from  adducing  from  Holy  Scripture 
any  proof  in  support  of  so  strange  a  theory,  but  proceeds  to  sing 
a  paean  on  faith  "  in  order  that  faith  may  increase  from  day  to 
day  until  man  at  length  becomes  a  Christian  through  and  through, 
keeps  the  real  Sabbath,  and  creeps,  skin,  hair  and  all,  into 
Christ."5  The  Christian,  by  accustoming  himself  to  trust  in  the 
pardoning  grace  of  Christ  and  by  fortifying  himself  in  this  faith, 
becomes  at  length  "  one  paste  with  Christ."6 

Hence  the  "fides  specialist  as  just  explained,  seems  to  be 
the  chief  ethical  aim  of  life.7  This  is  why  it  is  so  necessary 
to  strengthen  it  by  works,  and  so  essential  to  beat  down  all 
anxieties  of  conscience. 

1  Cp.  "  Werke,"  Weim.  ed.,  12,  p.  386  ;  Erl.  ed.,  51,  p.  479,  in  1523, 
on  1  Peter  iv.  19.  Cp.  also  Erl.  ed.,  182,  pp.  330,  333  f.,  in  1532,  on 
1  John  iv.  17. 

2  "  Werke,"  Erl.  ed.,  92,  p.  273.  3  lb.,  132,  p.  97. 

4  Cp.  our  vol.  iv.,  p.  442. 

5  "  Werke,"  Erl.  ed.,  II2,  p.  219  f.  6  lb.,  142,  p.  257. 

7  Cp.  Loofs,  "  DG.,"  4,  p.  737.  Hence  Luther  also  says :  "  Bum 
bonus  aut  malus  quisquam  efficitur,  non  hoc  ab  operibus,  sed  a  fide  vel 
incredulitate  oritur."  "  Werke,"  Weim.  ed.,  7,  p.  62  ;  "  Opp.  lat.  var.," 
4,  p.  239. 


Here  Luther  is  speaking  from  his  own  inward  experience. 
He  says  :  "  Thus  must  the  conscience  be  lulled  to  rest  and 
made  content,  thus  must  all  the  waves  and  billows  subside. 
.  .  .  Our  sins  towered  mountain-high  about  us  and  would 
fain  have  made  us  despair,  but  in  the  end  they  are  calmed, 
and  settle  down,  and  soon  are  seen  no  longer."1  It  was  only 
very  late  in  his  life  that  Luther  reached  a  state  of  compara- 
tive calm,  a  calm  moreover  best  to  be  compared  with  the 
utter  weariness  of  a  man  worn  out  by  fatigue.2 

Luther's  Last  Sermons  at  Eisleben  on  the  Great  Questions 
of  Morality 

In  the  four  sermons  he  preached  at  Eisleben — the  last  he 
ever  delivered — Luther  gives  utterance  to  certain  leading 
thoughts  quite  peculiar  to  himself  regarding  morality  and 
the  "  fides  specialist  These  utterances,  under  the  circum- 
stances to  be  regarded  as  the  ripest  fruit  of  his  reflection, 
must  be  taken  in  conjunction  with  other  statements  made 
by  him  in  his  old  age.  They  illustrate  even  more  clearly 
than  what  has  gone  before  the  cardinal  point  of  his  teaching 
now  under  discussion,  which,  even  more  than  any  other,  has 
had  the  bad  luck  to  be  so  often  wrongly  presented  by 
combatants  on  either  side. 

Luther's  four  sermons  at  Eisleben,  which  practically 
constitute  his  Last  Will  and  Testament  of  his  views  on 
faith  and  good  works,  were  delivered  before  a  great  con- 
course of  people.  A  note  on  one  delivered  on  Feb.  2,  1546, 
tells  us  :  "So  great  was  the  number  of  listeners  collected 
from  the  surrounding  neighbourhood,  market-places  and 
villages,  that  even  Paul  himself  were  he  to  come  preaching 
could  hardly  expect  a  larger  audience."3  For  the  reports  of 
his  sermons  we  are  indebted  to  the  pen  of  his  pupil  and 
companion  on  his  journey,  Johann  Aurifaber.4  From  their 
contents  we  can  see  how  much  Luther  was  accustomed  to 
adapt  himself  to  his  hearers  and  to  the  conditions  prevailing 
in  the  district  where  he  preached.     The  great  indulgence 

1  "  Werke,"  Erl.  ed.,  II2,  p.  220.  2  See  below,  ch.  xxxii.,  6. 

3  Printed,  in  "  Werke,"  Erl.  ed.,  202,  2,  p.  524. 

4  The  first  revised  by  Cruciger.  Aurifaber  published  his  notes  four 
months  after  the  sermons,  which,  as  the  Preface  points  out,  "  might 
well  be  taken  as  a  standing  witness  to  his  [Luther's]  doctrine." 
"  Werke,"  Erl.  ed.,  202,  2,  p.  501. 


then  extended  to  the  Jews  in  that  territory  of  the  Counts  of 
Mansfeld  ;  the  religious  scepticism  shared  or  favoured  by 
certain  people  at  the  Court;  and,  in  particular,  the  moral 
licence — which,  taking  its  cue  from  Luther's  teaching, 
argued  :  "  Well  and  good,  I  will  sin  lustily  since  sin  has 
been  taken  away  and  can  no  longer  damn  me,"  as  he  him- 
self relates  in  the  third  sermon, 1 — all  this  lends  colour  to  the 
background  of  these  addresses  delivered  at  Eisleben.  In 
particular  the  third  sermon,  on  the  parable  of  the  cockle 
(Mt.  xiii.  24-30),  is  well  worth  notice.  It  speaks  of  the  weeds 
which  infest  the  Church  and  of  those  which  spring  up  in  our- 
selves ;  in  the  latter  connection  Luther  expatiates  on  the  lead- 
ing principles  of  his  ethics,  on  faith,  sin  and  good  works,  and 
concludes  by  telling  the  Christian  how  he  must  live  and 
"  grow  in  faith  and  the  spirit."2  One  cannot  but  acknow- 
ledge the  force  with  which  the  preacher,  who  was  even  then 
suffering  acutely,  speaks  on  behalf  of  good  works  and  the 
struggle  against  sin.  What  he  says  is,  however,  tainted  by 
his  own  peculiar  views. 

"  God  forgives  sin  in  that  He  does  not  impute  it.  .  .  .  But 
from  this  it  does  not  follow  that  you  are  without  sin,  although  it 
is  already  forgiven  ;  for  in  yourself  you  feel  no  hearty  desire  to 
obey  God,  to  go  to  the  sacrament  or  to  hear  God's  Word.  Do 
you  perhaps  imagine  that  this  is  no  sin,  or  mere  child's  play  ?  " 
Hence,  he  concludes,  we  must  pray  daily  "  for  forgiveness  and 
never  cease  to  fight  against  ourselves  and  not  give  the  rein  to 
our  sinful  inclinations  and  lusts,  nor  obey  them  contrary  to  the 
dictates  of  conscience,  but  rather  weaken  and  deaden  sin  ever 
more  and  more  ;  for  sin  must  not  merely  be  forgiven  but  verily 
swept  away  and  destroyed."3 

He  exhorts  his  hearers  to  struggle  against  sin,  whether 
original  or  actual  sin,  and  does  so  in  words  which  place  the 
"  fides  specialis  "  in  the  first  place  and  impose  the  obligation 
of  a  painful  and  laborious  warfare  which  contrasts  strongly 
with  the  spontaneous  joy  of  the  just  in  doing  what  is  good, 
elsewhere  taken  for  granted  by  Luther. 

"  Our  doctrine  as  to  how  we  are  to  deal  with  our  own  unclean- 
ness  and  sin  is  briefly  this  :  Believe  in  Jesus  Christ  and  your  sins 
are  forgiven  ;  then  avoid  and  withstand  sin,  wage  a  hand-to- 
land  fight  with  it,  do  not  allow  it  its  way,  do  not  hate  or  cheat 
your  neighbour,"  etc.4 

1  "  Werke,"  Erl.  ed.,  ib.,  p.  551.  2  lb.,  p.  552. 

3  lb.,  p.  551.  *  lb.,  p.  554. 


Such  admonitions  strenuously  to  strive  against  sin  involun- 
tarily recall  some  very  different  assurances  of  his,  viz.  that  the 
man  who  has  once  laid  hold  on  righteousness  by  faith,  at  once 
and  of  his  own  accord  does  what  is  good  :  "  Hence  from  faith 
there  springs  love  and  joy  in  God  and  a  free  and  willing  service 
of  our  neighbour  out  of  simple  love." 

Elsewhere  too  he  says,  "  Good  works  are  performed  by  faith 
and  out  of  our  heartfelt  joy  that  we  have  through  Christ  obtained 
the  remission  of  our  sins.  .  .  .  Interiorly  everything  is  sweet 
and  delicious,  and  hence  we  do  and  suffer  all  things  gladly."1 
And  again,  just  as  we  eat  and  drink  naturally,  so  also  to  do  what 
is  good  comes  naturally  to  the  believer  ;  the  word  is  fulfilled  : 
Only  believe  and  you  will  do  all  things  of  your  own  accord ; 2  as 
a  good  tree  must  bring  forth  good  fruit  and  cannot  do  otherwise, 
so,  where  there  is  faith,  good  works  there  must  also  be.3  He 
speaks  of  this  as  a  "  necessitas  immutdbilitatis  "  and  as  a  "  neces- 
sitas  gratuita,"  no  less  necessary  than  that  the  sun  must  shine. 
In  1536  he  even  declared  in  an  instruction  to  Melanchthon  that 
it  was  not  right  to  say  that  a  believer  should  do  good  works, 
because  he  can't  help  performing  them  ;  who  thinks  of  ordering 
"  the  sun  to  shine,  a  good  tree  to  bring  forth  good  fruit,  or  three 
and  seven  to  make  ten  ?  "4 

Of  this  curious  idealism,  first  noticed  in  his  "Von  der  Freyheyt 
eynes  Christen  Menschen,"  we  find  traces  in  Luther  till  the  very 
end  of  his  life. 5  In  later  life,  however,  he  either  altered  it  a  little 
or  was  less  prone  to  insist  on  it  in  and  out  of  season.  This  was 
due  to  his  unfortunate  experiences  to  the  contrary  ;  as  a  matter 
of  fact  faith  failed  to  produce  the  effects  expected,  and  only  in 
rare  instances  and  at  its  very  best  was  it  as  fruitful  as  Luther 
wished.  The  truth  is  he  had  overrated  it,  obviously  misled  by 
his  enthusiasm  for  his  alleged  discovery  of  the  power  of  faith  for 

He  was  also  fond  of  saying — and  of  this  assurance  we  find 
an  echo  in  his  last  sermon — that  a  true  and  lively  faith  should 
govern  even  our  feeling,  and  as  we  are  so  little  conscious  of 
such  a  feeling  and  impulse  to  what  is  good,  it  follows  that 
we  but  seldom  have  this  faith,  i.e.  this  lively  certainty  of 

When  a  Christian  is  lazy,  starts  thinking  he  possesses  every- 
thing and  refuses  to  grow  and  increase,  then  "  neither  has  he 
earnestness  nor  a  true  faith."    Even  the  just  are  conscious  of  sin 

1  "  Comm.  on  Gal.,"  1,  p.  196  (Irmischer). 

2  "  Werke,"  Weim.  ed.,  12,  p.  559  ;  Erl.  ed.,  122,  p.  175.  "  Comm. 
on  Gal."  (Irmischer),  1,  p.  196. 

3  lb.,  Erl.  ed.,  172,  p.  94  ;   49,  p.  348.  4  lb.,  58,  pp.  343,  347. 
5  See  above,  p.  26  f.,  and  vol.  ii.,  p.  27  ff. 


(i.e.  original  sin),  but  they  resist  it  ;  but  where  there  is  a  distaste 
for  the  beloved  Word  of  God  there  can  be  "  no  real  faith."  Luther, 
to  the  detriment  of  his  ethics,  was  disposed  to  relegate  faith  tc|o 
much  to  the  region  of  feeling  and  personal  experience  ;  this, 
however,  he  could  scarcely  avoid  since  his  was  a  "  fides  specialis  " 
in  one's  own  personal  salvation.  True  religion,  in  his  opinion,  is 
ever  to  rejoice  and  be  glad  by  reason  of  the  forgiveness  of  sins 
and  cheerfully  to  run  the  way  of  God's  service  ;  this  idea  is 
prominent  in  his  third  sermon  at  Eisleben.  The  right  faith  "  is 
toothsome  and  lively;  it  consoles  and  gladdens."1  "It  bores 
its  way  into  the  heart  and  brings  comfort  and  cheer"  ;  "we  feel 
glad  and  ready  for  anything."2 

But  because  the  actual  facts  and  his  experience  failed  to  tally 
with  his  views,  Luther,  as  already  explained,  had  recourse  to  a 
convenient  expedient ;  towards  the  close  of  his  life  we  frequently 
hear  him  speaking  as  follows  :  Unfortunately  we  have  not  yet 
got  this  faith,  for  "  we  do  not  possess  in  our  hearts,  and  cannot 
acquire,  that  joy  which  we  would  gladly  feel  "  ;  thus  we  become 
conscious  how  the  "  old  Adam,  sin  and  our  sinful  nature,  still 
persist  within  us  ;  this  it  is  that  forces  you  and  me  to  fail  in  our 
faith."3  "  Even  great  saints  do  not  always  feel  that  joy  and 
might,  and  we  others,  owing  to  our  unbelief,  cannot  attain  to 
this  exalted  consolation  and  strength  .  .  .  and  even  though  we 
would  gladly  believe,  yet  we  cannot  make  our  faith  as  strong  as 
we  ought."4  He  vouchsafes  no  answer  to  the  objection  :  But 
why  then  set  up  aims  that  cannot  be  reached  ;  why  make  the 
starting-point  consist  in  a  "  faith  "  of  which  man,  owing  to 
original  sin,  can  only  attain  to  a  shadow,  except  perhaps  in  the 
rare  instances  of  martyrs,  or  divinely  endowed  saints  ? 

Luther,  when  insisting  so  strongly  that  good  works  must 
follow  "  faith,"  as  a  moral  incentive  to  such  works  also 
refers  incidentally  to  our  duty  of  gratitude  and  love  in 
return  for  this  faith  bestowed  on  us. 

Thus  in  the  Eisleben  sermons  he  invites  the  believer,  the 
better  to  arouse  himself  to  good  works,  to  address  God  in 
this  way :  "  Heavenly  Father,  there  is  no  doubt  that  Thou 
hast  given  Thy  Son  for  the  forgiveness  of  my  sins.  There- 
fore will  I  thank  God  for  this  during  my  whole  life,  and 
praise  and  exalt  Him,  and  no  longer  steal,  practise  usury  or 
be  miserly,  proud  or  jealous.  ...  If  you  rightly  believe," 
he  continues,  "  that  God  has  sent  you  His  Son,  you  will, 
like  a  fruitful  tree,  bring  forth  finer  and  finer  blossoms  the 
older  you  grow."5  In  what  follows  he  is  at  pains  to  show 
that  good  works  will  depend  on  the  constant  putting  into 

1  "  Werke,"  Erl.  ed.,  202,  2,  p.  553.  2  lb.,  p.  548. 

3  lb.  *  lb.,  p.  549.  5  lb.,  p.  554. 

V.— D 


practice  of  the  "  faith  "  ;  the  Justification  that  is  won  by 
the  "  fides  specialis "  is  insufficient,  in  spite  of  all  the 
comfort  it  brings  ;  rather  we  must  be  mindful  of  the  saying  of 
St.  Paul  :  "  If  by  the  spirit  you  mortify  the  deeds  of  the 
flesh  you  shall  live."  "  But  if  your  flesh  won't  do  it,  then 
leave  it  to  the  Holy  Ghost."1 

The  motive  for  good  works  which  Luther  here  advances, 
viz.  "  To  thank  God,  to  praise  and  extol  Him,"2  is  worthy  of 
special  attention  ;  it  is  the  only  real  one  he  furnishes  either 
here  or  elsewhere.  Owing  to  the  love  of  God  which  arises 
in  the  heart  at  the  thought  of  His  benefits  we  must  rouse 
ourselves  to  serve  Him.  The  idea  is  a  grand  one  and  had 
always  appealed  to  the  noblest  spirits  in  the  Church  before 
Luther's  day.  It  is,  however,  a  very  different  thing  to 
represent  this  motive  of  perfect  love  as  the  exclusive  and 
only  true  incentive  to  doing  what  is  pleasing  to  God.  Yet 
throughout  Luther's  teaching  this  is  depicted  as  the 
general,  necessary  and  only  motive.  "  From  faith  and  the 
Holy  Ghost  necessarily  comes  the  love  of  God,  and  together 
with  it  love  of  our  neighbour  and  every  good  work."3  When 
I  realise  by  faith  that  God  has  sent  His  Son  for  my  sake, 
etc.,  says  Luther,  in  his  Church-Postils,  "  I  cannot  do 
otherwise  than  love  Him  in  return,  do  His  behests  and  keep 
His  commandments."4  This  love,  however,  as  he  expressly 
states,  must  be  altogether  unselfish,  i.e.  must  be  what  the 
Old  Testament  calls  a  "  whole-hearted  love,"  which  in  turn 
"  presupposes  perfect  self-denial."5 

It  is  plain  that  we  have  here  an  echo  of  the  mysticism 
which  had  at  one  time  held  him  in  thrall ; 6  but  his  extrava- 
gant idealism  was  making  demands  which  ordinary  Christians 
either  never,  or  only  very  seldom,  could  attain  to. 

The  olden  Church  set  up  before  the  faithful  a  number  of 
motives  adapted  to  rouse  them  to  do  good  works  ;  such 
motives  she  found  in  the  holy  fear  of  God  and  His  chastise- 
ments, in  the  hope  of  temporal  or  everlasting  reward  ;  in  the 
need  of  making  satisfaction  for  sin  committed,  or,  finally, 
for  those  who  had  advanced  furthest,  in  the  love  of  God, 
whether  as  the  most  perfect  Being  and  deserving  of  all  our 

1  lb.,  p.  555. 

2  Cp.  p.  552  :  "  Help  me  that  I  may,  with  gratitude,  praise  and 
exalt  Thy  Son."  3  Kostlin's  summary,  ib.,  p.  206. 

4  "  Werke,"  Erl.  ed.,  152,  p.  40.    Cp.  "  Opp.  lat.  exeg.,"  13,  p.  144. 
6  Kostlin,  ib.,  p.  207.  6  Cp.  vol.  i.,  passim. 


love,  or  on  account  of  the  benefits  received  from  Him  ;  she 
invited  people  to  weld  all  these  various  motives  into  one 
strong  bond  ;  those  whose  dispositions  were  less  exalted 
she  strove  to  animate  with  the  higher  motives  of  love,  so 
far  as  the  weakness  of  human  nature  allowed.  Luther,  on 
the  contrary,  in  the  case  of  the  righteous  already  assured 
of  salvation,  not  only  excluded  every  motive  other  than 
love,  but  also,  quite  unjustifiably,  refused  to  hear  of  any 
love  sa^e  that  arising  from  gratitude  for  the  redemption  and 
the  faith.  "  To  love  God,"  in  his  eyes,  "  is  nothing  more 
than  to  be  grateful  for  the  benefit  bestowed  "  (through  the 
redemption).1  And,  again,  he  imputes  such  power  to  this 
sadly  curtailed  motive  of  love,  or  rather  gratitude,  that  it 
is  his  only  prescription,  even  for  those  who  are  so  cold- 
hearted  that  the  Word  of  God  "  comes  in  at  one  ear  and 
goes  out  at  the  other,"  and  who  hear  of  the  death  of  Christ 
with  as  little  devotion  as  though  they  had  been  told,  "  that 
the  Turks  had  beaten  the  Sultan,  or  some  other  such  tit-bit 
of  news."2 

Some  notable  Omissions  of  Luihefs  in  the  above  Sermons 
on  Morality 

Hitherto  we  have  been  considering  what  Luther  had  to 
say  on  the  question  of  faith  and  morality  in  his  last  sermons. 
It  remains  to  point  out  what  he  did  not  say,  and  what,  on 
account  of  his  own  doctrines,  it  was  impossible  for  him  to 
say  ;  as  descriptive  of  his  ethics  the  latter  is  perhaps  of  even 
greater  importance. 

In  the  first  place  he  says  nothing  of  the  supernatural  life,  which, 
according  to  the  ancient  teaching  of  the  Church,  begins  with 
the  infusion  of  sanctifying  grace  in  the  soul  of  the  man  who  is 
justified.  As  we  know,  he  would  not  hear  of  this  new  and  vital 
principle  in  the  righteous,  which  indeed  was  incompatible  with 
his  theory  of  the  mere  non-imputation  of  sin.  Further,  he  also 
ignores  the  so-called  "  infused  virtues  "  whence,  with  the  help 
of  actual  grace,  springs  the  new  motive  force  of  the  man  received 
into  the  Divine  sonship.  By  his  denial  of  the  complete  renewal 
of  the  inner  man  he  placed  himself  in  opposition  to  the  ancient 
witnesses  of  Christendom,  as  Protestant  historians  of  dogma 
now  admit.3 

1  Kostlin,  ib.,  p.  204.  •  In  the  Eisleben  Sermons,  p.  548. 

3  On  Luther's  attitude  towards  the  supernatural  moral  order,  see 


Secondly,  he  dismisses  in  silence  the  so-called  actual  grace. 
Not  even  in  answering  the  question  as  to  the  source  whence  the 
believer  draws  strength  and  ability  to  strive  after  what  is  good, 
does  he  refer  to  it,  so  hostile  is  his  whole  system  to  any  co-opera- 
tion between  the  natural  and  the  supernatural  in  man. 

Thirdly,  he  does  not  give  its  due  to  man's  freedom  in  co-opera- 
ting in  the  doing  of  what  is  good ;  it  is  true  he  does  not  expressly 
deny  it,  but  it  was  his  usual  practice  in  his  addresses  to  the  people 
to  say  as  little  as  possible  of  his  doctrine  of  the  enslaved  will.1 
Along  with  faith,  however,  he  extols  the  Holy  Ghost.  "  Leave 
it  to  the  Holy  Ghost !  "  Indeed  faith  itself,  and  the  strong  feeling 
which  should  accompany  it,  are  exclusively  the  work  of  the  Holy 
Ghost.  It  is  the  Holy  Ghost  alone  Who  believes,  and  feels,  and 
works  in  man,  according  to  Luther's  teaching  elsewhere.  This 
action  of  God  alone  is  something  different  from  actual  grace. 
In  the  instructions  he  gave  to  Melanchthon  in  1536  concerning 
justification  and  works,2  Luther  entirely  ignores  any  action  on 
man's  part  as  a  free  agent,  and  yet  here  we  have  the  "  clearest 
expression  "  of  his  doctrine  of  how  good  works  follow  on  justifi- 
cation. The  Protestant  author  of  "  Luthers  Theologie  in  ihrer 
geschichtlichen  Entwicklung  "  remarks  of  this  work  (and  the 
same  applies  to  the  above  sermons  and  other  statements)  : 
"  Luther  is  always  desirous,  on  the  one  hand  of  depreciating  man's 
claim  to  personal  worth  and  merit,  and  on  the  other  by  his 
testimony  to  God's  mercy  in  Christ,  of  furthering  faith  and  the 
impulses  and  desires  which  spring  from  faith  and  the  spirit  ; 
here,  too,  he  says  nothing  of  any  choice  as  open  to  man  between 
the  Divine  impulses  working  within  him  and  those  of  his  sinful 

Fourthly,  and  most  important  of  all,  Luther  says  nothing  of  the 
true  significance  of  morality  for  the  attainment  of  everlasting 

The  best  and  theologically  most  convincing  reply  to  the  objec- 
tion of  which  he  spoke  :  "  Well  and  good,  then  I  shall  sin  lustily," 
etc.  would  have  been  :  No,  a  good  moral  life  is  essential  for 
salvation  !  The  strongest  Bible  texts  would  have  been  there  to 
back  such  a  statement,  and,  to  his  powerful  eloquence,  it  should 
have  proved  an  attractive  task  to  crush  his  frivolous  opponents 
by  so  weighty  an  argument.  Yet  we  find  never  a  word  concern- 
ing the  necessity  of  good  works  for  salvation,  but  merely  an 
account  of  the  wonders  worked  by  faith  of  its  own  accord  alone 
after  it  has  laid  hold  on  the  heart.  This  is  readily  understood, 
if  justification  is  purely  passive  and  effected  solely  by  the  Spirit 
of  God  which  enkindles  faith  and,  with  it,  covers  over  sin  as  with 
a  shield,  then  the  very  being  of  the  life  of  faith  must  be  mere 
passivity,  and  there  can  be  no  more  question  of  attaining  to 
salvation  by  means  of  good  deeds  performed  with  the  aid  of  grace. 
In  the  instruction  for  Melanchthon  mentioned  above  we  find  at 

1  Cp.  vol.  ii.,  p.  223  ft\,  particularly  p.  240  ff, 

2  See  above,  p.  32,  n.  4. 
8  Kostlin,  ib.,  p.  206. 


the  end  this  clear  query :  "Is  this  saying  true :  Righteousness  by 
works  is  necessary  for  salvation  ?  "  Luther  answers  by  a  distinc- 
tion :  "  Not  as  if  works  operate  or  bring  about  salvation,"  he 
says,  "  but  rather  they  are  present  together  with  the  faith  that 
operates  righteousness  ;  just  as  of  necessity  I  must  be  present 
in  order  to  be  saved."  This  distinction,  however,  leaves  the 
question  just  where  it  was  before.  He  concludes  his  remarks  on 
this  vital  matter  with  a  jest  on  the  purely  external  and  fortuitous 
presence  of  works  in  the  man  received  into  eternal  life  :  "I  too 
shall  be  in  at  the  death,  said  the  rascal  when  he  was  about  to  be 
hanged  and  many  people  were  hurrying  to  see  the  scene."1 

All  the  more  strongly  did  Luther  in  his  usual  way  describe  in 
his  last  sermon  the  natural  sinfulness  which  persists  in  man 
owing  to  original  sin. 

The  sin  that  still  dwells  within  us  "  forces  "  man  to  prevent 
faith  and  works  coming  to  their  own.2  For  "  he  is  not  yet  with- 
out sin,  though  he  has  the  forgiveness  of  sins  and  is  sanctified  by 
the  Holy  Ghost."  In  consequence  of  the  "  foulness  "  within  him 
"  the  longer  he  lives  the  worse  he  gets."  "  We  cannot  get  rid 
of  our  sinful  body."3  For  this  reason  even  the  "best  minds  " 
so  often  are  indifferent  to  eternal  life.  On  account  of  the  evil 
taint  in  our  flesh  we  are  unable  to  rise  as  high  as  we  ought.4  But 
if  original  sin  and  its  workings  were  declared  really  sinful  in  man 
(for  even  the  very  motions  against  "  heartfelt  pleasure  "  in  God's 
service  are,  so  we  are  told,  "sins"5),  then  it  is  no  wonder  that 
Luther  should  have  been  confronted  with  the  question  of  which 
he  speaks  :  "If  sin  be  in  me,  how  then  can  I  be  pleasing  to 
God  ?  " — a  question  which  formerly  could  not  have  been  asked 
of  those  whose  original  sin  had  been  washed  away  in  baptism. 
The  teaching  of  the  olden  Church  had  been,  that  original  sin  was 
blotted  out  by  baptism,  but  that  the  inclination  to  evil  per- 
sisted in  man  to  his  last  breath,  though  without  any  fault  on  his 
part  so  long  as  consent  was  lacking. 6 

Still  less  to  be  wondered  at  was  it,  that  many,  unable  to  regard 
themselves  as  responsible  or  guilty  on  account  of  the  involuntary 
motions  of  original  sin,  began  to  doubt  whether  any  responsi- 
bility existed  for  evil  actions  or  whether  moral  effort  was  within 
the  bounds  of  possibility. 

Further,  according  to  Luther,  our  constant  exercise  of  our- 
selves in  faith  and  our  "  rubbing  "  ourselves  against  sin  was 
finally  to  lead  "  not  merely  to  our  sins  being  forgiven  but  to  their 

1  "  Werke,"  Erl.  ed.,  58,  p.  346.  2  lb.,  202,  2,  p.  548. 

3  lb.,  p.  545.  4  lb.,  p.  549  f.  5  lb.,  p.  551. 

6  Luther's  opposite  doctrine,  which  is  of  importance  to  the  matter 
under  consideration,  is  expressed  by  Kostlin  (ib.,  p.  126  f.)  as  follows  : 
Luther  "  does  not  make  guilt  and  condemnation  follow  on  the  act 
which  is  contrary  to  God's  will,  nor  even  on  the  determination  to 
commit  such  an  act,  but  on  the  inward  motion,  or  concupiscence,  nay, 
in  the  inborn  evil  propensity  [even  of  the  baptised]  which  exists  prior 
to  any  conscious  motion.  .  .  .  We  do  not  find  in  his  writings  any 
further  information  on  the  other  questions  here  involved  "  (e.g.  of  the 
children  who  die  unbaptised,  etc.). 


being  altogether  rooted  up  and  swept  away  ;  for  your  shabby, 
smelly  body  could  not  enter  heaven  without  first  being  cleansed 
and  beautified."1  Taking  for  granted  his  mystic  assumption 
that  sinful  concupiscence  can  at  last  be  "  swept  away,"  he  insists 
on  our  continuing  hopefully  "  to  amend  by  faith  and  prayer  our 
weakness  and  to  fight  against  it  until  such  a  change  takes  place 
in  our  sinful  body  that  sin  no  longer  exists  therein,"2  though,  in 
his  opinion,  this  cannot  entirely  be  until  we  reach  heaven.  Yet 
experience,  had  he  but  opened  his  eyes  to  it,  here  once  again 
contradicted  him.  The  "  fomes  peccati,"  as  the  Catholic  Church 
rightly  teaches,  cannot  be  extinguished  so  long  as  man  is  on  this 
earth,  though  it  may  be  damped,  and,  by  the  practice  of  what  is 
right  and  the  use  of  the  means  of  grace,  be  rendered  harmless  to 
our  moral  life.  The  Church  expected  nothing  unreasonable 
from  man,  though  her  moral  standards  were  of  the  highest. 
Luther,  however,  by  abandoning  the  Church's  ethics,  came  to 
teach  a  strange  mixture  of  perverted,  unworkable  idealism  and 
all  too  great  indulgence  towards  human  frailty. 

Luther's  Vacillation  between  the  Two  Faiths,  Old  and  New, 
in  the  Matter  of  Morality  and  the  Assurance  of  Salvation 

Many  discordant  utterances,  betraying  his  uncertainty 
and  his  struggles,  have  been  bequeathed  to  us  by  Luther 
regarding  the  main  questions  of  morality  and  as  to  how  we 
may  insure  salvation.  First  we  have  his  statements  with 
regard  to  the  importance  of  morality  in  God's  sight. 

In  1537  in  a  Disputation  on  June  1  he  denounced  the  thesis, 
"  Good  works  are  necessary  for  salvation."3  In  the  same  way, 
in  a  sermon  of  1535,  he  asserted  that  it  was  by  no  means  neces- 
sary for  us  to  perform  good  works  "  in  order  to  blot  out  sin,  to 
overcome  death  and  win  heaven,  but  merely  for  the  profit  and 
assistance  of  our  neighbour."  "  Our  works,"  he  there  says, 
"  can  only  shape  what  concerns  our  temporal  life  and  being  "  ; 
higher  than  this  they  cannot  rise. 4 

Yet,  when  thus  degrading  works,  he  had  again  and  again  to 
struggle  within  his  own  heart  against  the  faith  of  the  ancient 
Church  concerning  the  merit  of  good  deeds.  Especially  was  this 
the  case  when  he  considered  the  "  texts  which  demand  a  good 
life  on  account  of  the  eternal  reward,"5  for  instance,  "If  thou 
wilt  enter  into  life,  keep  the  commandments  "  (Mt.  xix.  17),  or 
"Lay  up  for  yourselves  treasure  in  heaven"  (ib.,  vi.  20).  With 
them  he  deals  in  a  sermon  of  1522.  The  eternal  reward,  he  here 
says,  follows  the  works  because  it  is  a  result  of  the  faith  which 

1  In  the  Eisleben  sermons,  ib.,  p.  551.  2  lb.,  p.  546. 

3  "  Disputationes,"  ed.  Drews,  p.  159.  Cp.  "  Corp.  ref.,"  3,  p.  385. 
Loofs,  "  DG.,"  4,  p.  857,  n.  4,  and  770,  n.  4. 

*  "  Werke,"  Erl.  ed.,  192,  p.  153.  5  lb.,  132,  p.  307. 


itself  is  the  cause  of  the  works.  But  the  believer  must  not  "  lock 
to  the  reward,"  or  trouble  about  it.  Why  then  does  God  promise 
a  reward  ? — In  order  that  "  all  may  know  what  the  natural  result 
of  a  good  life  will  be."  Yet  he  also  admits  a  certain  anxiety  on 
the  part  of  the  pious  Christian  to  be  certain  of  his  reward,  and  the 
favourable  effect  of  such  a  certainty  on  the  good  man's  will.1 
Here  he  exhorts  his  listeners  ;  "that  you  be  content  to  know  and 
be  assured  that  this  indeed  will  be  the  result,"  whilst  in  another 
sermon  of  that  same  year  he  describes  as  follows  the  promise  of 
eternal  life  as  the  reward  of  works  :  "  It  is  an  incentive  and  in- 
ducement that  makes  us  zealous  in  piety  and  in  the  service  and 
praise  of  God.  .  .  .  That  God  should  guide  us  so  kindly  makes 
us  esteem  the  more  His  Fatherly  Will  and  the  Mercy  of  Christ  " 
— but  on  no  account  "  must  we  be  good  as  if  for  the  sake  of  the 
reward."2  He  also  quotes  incidentally  Mt.  xix.  29,  where  our 
Lord  says  that  all  who  leave  home,  brethren,  etc.  for  His  name's 
sake  "  shall  receive  a  hundredfold  and  shall  possess  life  ever- 
lasting "  ;  also  Heb.  x.  35  concerning  the  "  great  reward  "  that 
awaits  those  who  lose  not  their  confidence.  Such  statements, 
he  refuses,  however,  to  see  referred  to  salvation,  which  will  be 
the  equal  portion  of  all  true  believers,  but,  in  his  arbitrary 
fashion,  explains  them  as  denoting  some  extra  ornament  of  glory.3 

"  Good  works  will  be  present  wherever  faith  is."  As  this 
supposition,  a  favourite  one  with  Luther  from  early  days,  fails 
to  verify  itself  in  practice,  and  as  the  expedients  he  proposed  to 
meet  the  new  difficulty  are  scattered  throughout  his  writings, 
an  admirer  in  recent  times  ventured  to  sum  up  these  elements 
into  a  system  under  the  following  headings  :  "  Faulty  morality 
is  a  proof  of  a  faulty  faith."  "  The  fact  of  morality  being  present 
proves  the  presence  of  faith."  "  Moral  indolence  induces  loss  of 
faith."  "  Zeal  for  morality  causes  faith  to  increase."4  The  true 
explanation  would  therefore  seem  always  to  be  in  the  assumption 
of  a  want  of  "  faith,"  i.e.  of  a  lack  of  that  absolute  certainty  of 
personal  salvation  which  should  regulate  all  religious  life,5  in 
other  words  moral  failings  should  be  held  to  prove  the  absence  of 
this  saving  certainty. 

Seen  in  this  light  good  works  are  of  importance,  as  the  outward 
demonstration  that  a  person  possesses  the  "  fides  specialis,"  and 
in  this  wise  alone  are  they  a  guarantee  of  everlasting  happiness. 
They  prove  "  before  the  world  and  before  his  own  conscience  " 
that  a  Christian  really  has  the  "  faith."  This  is  what  Luther 
expressly  teaches  in  his  Church- Postils  :  "  Therefore  hold  fast 
to  this,  that  a  man  who  is  inwardly  a  Christian  is  justified  before 
God  solely  by  faith  and  without  any  works  ;  but  outwardly 
and  publicly,  before  the  people  and  to  himself,  he  is  justified  by 
works,  i.e.  he  becomes  known  to  others  as,  and  certain  in  himself 

1  lb.,  p.  305  ff.  2  lb.,  152,  p.  524.  Kostlin,  ib.,  p.  213. 

3  Cp.  ib.,  43,  p.  362  ff. 

4  The  headings  in  W.  Walther's  "  Die  Sittlichkeit  nach  Luther," 
pp.  100,  106,  120,  125  are  as  above.  5  Above,  p.  32  f. 


that,  he  is  inwardly  just,  believing  and  pious.  Thus  you  may 
term  one  an  open  or  outward  justification  and  the  other  an  in- 
ward justification."1  Hence  Luther's  certainty  of  salvation, 
however  strong  it  may  be,  still  requires  to  be  tested  by  something 
else  as  to  whether  it  is  the  true  "  faith  "  deserving  of  God's  com- 
passion ;  for  "  it  is  quite  possible  for  a  man  never  to  doubt  God's 
mercy  towards  him  though  all  the  while  he  does  not  really 
possess  it  " ; 2  according  to  Luther,  namely,  there  is  such  a  thing 
as  a  fictitious  faith. 

In  Luther's  opinion  "  faith  "  was  a  grasping  of  something 
actually  there.  Hence  if  God's  mercy  was  not  there,  then  neither 
was  there  any  "  faith."  Accordingly,  an  "  unwarrantable  assur- 
ance of  salvation  "  was  not  at  all  impossible,  and  works  served  as 
a  means  of  detecting  it.  Walther,  to  whom  we  owe  our  summary, 
does  not,  it  is  true,  prove  the  existence  of  such  a  state  of  "  un- 
warrantable assurance  "  by  any  direct  quotation  from  Luther's 
writings,  and,  indeed,  it  might  be  difficult  to  find  any  definite 
statement  to  this  effect,  seeing  that  Luther  was  chary  of  speaking 
of  any  failure  in  the  personal  certainty  of  salvation,  on  which 
alone,  exclusive  of  works,  he  based  the  whole  work  of  justification. 
And  yet,  as  Luther  himself  frequently  says,  moods  and  feelings 
are  no  guarantee  of  true  faith  ;  what  is  required  are  the  works, 
which,  like  good  fruit,  always  spring  from  a  good  tree. — So 
strongly,  in  spite  of  all  his  predilection  for  faith  alone,  is  he  im- 
pelled again  and  again  to  have  recourse  to  works.  In  many 
passages  they  tend  to  become  something  more  than  mere  signs 
confirmatory  of  faith.  We  need  not  examine  here  how  far  his 
statements  concerning  faith  and  works  are  consistent,  and  to 
what  extent  the  sane  Catholic  teaching  continued  to  influence 

What  is  remarkable,  however,  is,  that,  in  his  commendable 
efforts  to  urge  the  performance  of  works  in  order  to  curtail  the 
pernicious  results  of  his  doctrine,  Luther  comes  to  attribute  a 
saving  action  to  "  faith,"  only  on  condition  that,  out  of  love  of 
God,  we  "  strive  "  against  sin.  In  one  of  his  last  sermons  at 
Eisleben  he  tells  his  hearers  :  Sins  are  forgiven  by  faith  and  "  are 
not  imputed  so  far  as  you  set  yourself  to  fight  against  them,  and 
learn  to  repeat  the  Our  Father  diligently  .  .  .  and  to  grow  in 
strength  as  you  grow  in  age  ;  and  you  must  be  at  pains  to  exer- 
cise your  faith  by  resisting  the  sins  that  remain  in  you  ...  in 
short,  you  must  become  stronger,  humbler,  more  patient  and 
believe  more  firmly."3  The  conditional  "  so  far  as  "  furnishes  a 
key  which  has  to  be  used  in  many  other  passages  where  works 
are  demanded  as  well  as  faith.  Faith,  there,  is  real  and  whole- 
some "in  so  far  as  "  it  produces  works  :  "  For  we  too  admit  it 
and  have  always  taught  it,  better  and  more  forcibly  than  they 
[the  Papists],  that  we  must  both  preach  and  perform  works,  and 
that  they  must  follow  the  faith,  and,  that,  where  they  do  not  follow 
there  the  faith  is  not  as  it  should  be."4 

1  "  Werke,"  Erl.  ed.,  132,  p.  304  f.  2  Walther,  ib.,  p.  102. 

3  "  Werke,"  Erl.  ed.,  202,  2,  p.  553.  4  lb.,  122,  p.  219. 


Nor  does  he  merely  say  that  works  of  charity  must  follow 
eventually,  but  that  charity  must  be  infused  by  the  Spirit  of 
God  together  with  faith  of  which  it  is  the  fruit. 

;'  For  though  faith  makes  us  righteous  and  pure,  yet  it  cannot 
be  without  love,  and  the  Spirit  must  infuse  love  together  with 
faith.  In  short,  where  there  is  true  faith,  there  the  Holy  Ghost 
is  also  present,  and  where  the  Holy  Ghost  is,  there  love  and  all 
good  things  must  also  be.  .  .  .  Love  is  a  consequence  or  fruit 
of  the  Spirit  which  comes  to  us  wrapped  up  in  the  faith."1 
"  Charity  is  so  closely  bound  up  [with  faith  and  hope]  that  it 
can  never  be  parted  from  faith  where  this  is  true  faith,  and  as 
little  as  there  can  be  fire  without  heat  and  smoke,  so  little  can 
faith  exist  without  charity."2  From  gratitude  (as  we  have  heard 
him  state  above,  p.  26)  the  man  who  is  assured  of  salvation  must 
be  "  well  disposed  towards  God  and  keep  His  commandments." 
But  if  he  be  "  sweetly  disposed  towards  God  "  this  must  "  show 
itself  in  all  charity." 

Taking  the  words  at  their  face  value  we  might  find  in 
these  and  similar  statements  on  charity  something  reminis- 
cent of  the  Catholic  doctrine  of  a  faith  working  through  love.3 
But  though  this  is  what  Luther  should  logically  have 
arrived  at,  he  was  in  reality  always  kept  far  from  it  by  his 
idea  both  of  faith  and  of  imputation.  It  should  be  noted 
that  he  was  fond  of  taking  shelter  behind  the  assertion,  that 
his  "  faith  "  also  included,  or  was  accompanied  by,  charity. 
He  was  obliged  to  do  this  in  self-defence  against  the 
objections  of  certain  Evangelicals — who  rushed  to  con- 
clusions he  would  not  accept — or  of  Catholic  opponents. 
Indeed,  in  order  to  pacify  the  doubters,  he  even  went  so  far 
as  to  say,  that  love  preceded  the  "  faith  "  he  taught,  and 
that  "  faith  "  itself  was  simply  a  work  like  any  other  work 
done  for  the  fulfilling  of  the  commandments. 

1  lb.,  82,  p.  119,  in  the  exposition  of  1  Cor.  xiii.  2  :  "  And  though 
I  had  all  faith  and  could  remove  mountains  and  had  not  charity,  I  am 
nothing."  2  lb.,  152,  p.  40. 

3  Willibald  Pirkheimer  confronted  Luther  with  the  following  state- 
ment of  the  Catholic  teaching  :  "  We  know  that  free-will  of  itself 
without  grace  cannot  suffice.  We  refer  all  things  back  to  the  Divine 
grace,  but  we  believe,  that,  after  the  reception  of  that  grace  without 
which  we  are  nothing,  we  still  have  to  perform  our  rightful  service. 
We  are  ever  subject  to  the  action  of  grace  and  always  unite  our  efforts 
with  grace.  .  .  .  But  whoever  believes  that  grace  alone  suffices  even 
without  any  exercise  of  our  will  or  subduing  of  our  desire,  such  a  one 
does  nothing  else  but  declare  that  no  one  is  obliged  to  pray,  watch,  fast, 
take  pity  on  the  needy,  or  perform  works  of  mercy,"  etc.  "  Opp.,"  ed. 
Goldast,  p.  375  sqq.,  in  Drews,  "  Pirkheimers  Stellung  zur  Reforma- 
tion," Leipzig,  1884,  p.  119. 


It  was  in  this  sense  that  he  wrote  in  the  "  Sermon  von  den  guten 
Wercken,"  composed  at  the  instance  of  his  prudent  friend  Spalatin 
for  the  Duke  of  Saxony  :  "  Such  trust  and  faith  brings  with  it 
charity  and  hope  ;  indeed,  if  we  look  at  the  matter  aright,  charity 
comes  first,  or  at  least  simultaneously  with  faith.  For  I  should 
not  care  to  trust  God  unless  I  believed  He  would  be  kindly  and 
gracious  to  me,  whereby  I  am  well  disposed  towards  Him,  trust 
Him  heartily  and  perform  all  that  is  good  in  His  sight."  In  the 
same  connection  he  characterises  "  faith  "  as  a  "  work  of  the 
first  Commandment,"  and  as  a  "  true  keeping  of  that  command," 
and  as  the  "  first,  topmost  and  best  work  from  which  all  others 
flow."1  It  might  seem,  though  this  is  but  apparent,  that  he  had 
actually  come  to  acknowledge  the  reality  and  merit  of  man's 
works,  in  the  teeth  of  his  denial  of  free-will  and  of  the  possibility 
of  meriting. 

Of  charity  as  involved  in  faith  he  wrote  in  a  similar  strain  in 
1519  to  Johann  Silvius  Egranus,  who  at  that  time  still  belonged 
to  his  party,  but  was  already  troubled  with  scruples  concerning 
the  small  regard  shown  for  ethical  motives  and  the  undue  stress 
laid  on  faith  alone  :  "I  do  not  separate  justifying  faith  from 
charity,"  Luther  told  him,  "  on  the  contrary  we  believe  because 
God,  in  Whom  we  believe,  pleases  us  and  is  loved  by  us."  To 
him  all  this  was  quite  clear  and  plain,  but  the  new-comers  who 
had  busied  themselves  with  faith,  hope  and  charity  "  under- 
stood not  one  of  the  three."2 

We  may  recall  how  the  enquiring  mind  of  Egranus  was  by  no 
means  entirely  satisfied  by  this  explanation.  In  1534  he  pub- 
lished a  bitter  attack  on  the  Lutheran  doctrine  of  works,  though 
he  never  returned  more  than  half-way  from  Lutheranism  to  the 
olden  Church.3 

Many,  like  Silvius  Egranus,  who  at  the  outset  had  been  won 
over  to  the  new  religion,  took  fright  when  they  saw  that,  owing 
to  the  preference  shown  to  faith  (i.e.  the  purely  personal  assurance 
of  salvation),  the  ethical  principles  regarding  Christian  perfection 
and  man's  aim  in  life,  received  but  scant  consideration. 

Many  truly  saw  therein  an  alarming  abasement  of  the 
moral  standard  and  accordingly  returned  to  the  doctrine  of 
their  fathers.  As  the  ideal  to  be  aimed  at  throughout  life 
the  Church  had  set  up  before  them  progress  in  the  love  of 
God,  encouraging  them  to  put  this  love  in  practice  by 
fidelity  to  the  duties  of  their  calling  and  by  a  humble  and 
confident  trust  in  God's  Fatherly  promises  rather  than  in 
any  perilous  "  fides  specialist 

In  previous  ages  Christian  perfection  had  rightly  been  thought 
to  consist  in  the  development  of  the  moral  virtues,  particularly 

1  "  Werke,"  Erl.  ed„  162,  p.  131. 

2  Feb.  2,  1519,  "  Brief wechsel,"  1,  p.  408.     3  See  vol.  iii.,  p.  462  ff. 


of  charity,  the  queen  of  all  the  others.  Now,  however,  Luther 
represented  "  the  consoling  faith  in  the  forgiveness  of  sins  as  the 
sum  of  Christian  perfection."1  According  to  him  the  "real 
essence  of  personal  Christianity  lies  in  the  confidence  of  the  justi- 
fied sinner  that  he  shares  the  paternal  love  of  the  Almighty  of 
which  he  has  been  assured  by  the  work  and  person  of  Jesus 
Christ."  In  this  sense  alone  can  he  be  said  to  have  "  rediscovered 
Christianity  "  as  a  religion.  We  are  told  that  "  the  essence  of 
Lutheran  Christianity  is  to  be  found  in  Luther's  reduction  of 
practical  Christianity  to  the  doctrine  of  salvation."2  He  " altered 
the  ideal  of  religious  perfection  as  no  other  Christian  before 
his  day  had  ever  done."  The  "  revulsion  "  in  moral  ideals  which 
this  necessarily  involved  spelt  "  a  huge  decline."3 

George  Wicel,  who,  after  having  long  been  an  adherent  of 
Lutheranism,  broke  away  from  it  in  consequence  of  the  moral 
results  referred  to,  wrote,  in  1533,  with  much  bitterness  in  the 
defence  he  addressed  to  Justus  Jonas  :  "  Amongst  you  one  hears 
of  nothing  but  of  remitting  and  forgiving  ;  you  don't  seem  to 
see  that  your  seductions  sow  more  sins  than  ever  you  can  take 
away.  Your  people,  it  is  true,  are  so  constituted  that  they  will 
only  hear  of  the  forgiving  and  never  of  the  retaining  of  sin 
(John  xx.  23)  ;  evidently  they  stand  more  in  need  of  being  loosed 
than  of  being  bound.  Ah,  you  comfortable  theologians  !  You 
are  indeed  sharp-sighted  enough  in  all  this  business,  for  were  you 
to  bind  as  often  as  you  loose,  you,  the  ringleaders  of  the  party, 
would  soon  find  yourselves  all  alone  with  your  faith,  and  might 
then  withdraw  into  some  hole  to  weep  for  the  loss  of  your  authority 
and  congregation."  "Ah,  you  rascals,  what  a  fine  Evangelical 
mode  of  life  have  you  wrought  with  your  preachment  on  grace."4 

5.   Abasement  of  Practical  Christianity 

To  follow  up  the  above  statement  emanating  from  a 
Protestant  source,  concerning  the  "  huge  decline  "  in  moral 
ideals  and  practical  Christianity  involved  in  Luther's  work, 
we  shall  go  on  to  consider  how  greatly  he  did  in  point  of 
fact  narrow  and  restrict  ethical  effort  in  comparison  with 
what  was  required  by  the  ethics  of  earlier  days.  In  so  doing 
he  was  following  the  psychological  impulse  discernible  even 
in  the  first  beginnings  of  his  dislike  for  the  austerity  of  his 
Order  and  the  precepts  of  the  Church. 

1  Adolf  Harnack,  "  DG.,"  34,  p.  850. 

2  Loofs,  "  DG.,"  4,  p.  698,  n.  1,  p.  737. 

3  Harnack,  ib.,  p.  831  f. 

4  "  Confutatio  calumn.  resp.,"  E  2a.  Dollinger,  "  Reformation," 
1,  p.  39. 


Lower  Moral  Standards 

1.  The  only  works  of  obligation  in  the  service  of  God  are 
faith,  praise  and  thanksgiving.  God,  he  says,  demands  only 
our  faith,  our  praise  and  our  gratitude.  Of  our  works  He 
has  no  need.1  He  restricts  our  "  deeds  towards  God  "  to 
the  praise-offering  or  thank-offering  for  the  good  received, 
and  to  the  prayer-offering  "  or  Our  Father,  against  the  evil 
and  badness  we  would  wish  to  be  rid  of."2  This  service  is 
the  duty  of  each  individual  Christian  and  is  practised  in 
common  in  Divine  worship.  The  latter  is  fixed  and  con- 
trolled with  the  tacit  consent  of  the  congregation  by  the 
ministers  who  represent  the  people  ;  in  this  we  find  the 
trace  of  Luther's  innate  aversion  to  any  law  or  obligation 
which  leads  him  to  avoid  anything  savouring  of  legislative 

In  the  preface  to  his  instructions  to  the  Visitors  in  1528 
he  declares,  for  instance,  that  the  rules  laid  down  were  not 
meant  to  "  found  new  Papal  Decretals  "  ;  they  were  rather 
to  be  taken  asa"  history  of  and  witness  to  our  faith  "  and 
not  as  "  strict  commands."4  This  well  expresses  his 
antipathy  to  the  visible  Catholic  Church,  her  hierarchy  and 
her  so-called  man-made  ordinances  for  public  worship. 

Since,  to  his  mind,  it  is  impossible  to  offer  God  anything 
but  love,  thanksgiving  and  prayer,  it  follows  that,  firstly, 
the  Eucharistic  Sacrifice  falls,  and,  with  it,  all  the  sacrifices 
made  to  the  greater  glory  of  God  by  self-denial  and  abnega- 
tion, obedience  or  bodily  penances,  together  with  all  those 
works — practised  in  imitation  of  Christ  by  noble  souls — 
done  over  and  above  the  bounden  duties  of  each  one's 
calling.  He  held  that  it  was  wrong  to  say  of  such  sacrifices, 
made  by  contrite  and  loving  hearts,  that  they  were  both 
to  God's  glory  and  to  our  own  advantage,  or  to  endeavour 
to  justify  them  by  arguing  that  :  Whoever  does  not  do 
great  things  for  God  must  expect  small  recompense.  Among 
the  things  which  fell  before  him  were  :  vows,  processions, 
pilgrimages,  veneration  of  relics  and  of  the  Saints,  ecclesi- 

1  Kostlin,  "  Luthers  Theol.,"  22,  p.  208. 

2  "  Werke,"  Erl.  ed.,  92,  p.  33.  3  Kostlin,  ib.,  pp.  284,  295. 

4  "  Werke,"  Weim.  ed.,  26,  p.  200  ;  Erl.  ed.,  23,  p.  9.  Kostlin, 
however  (p.  275  f.),  points  out  that  Luther  nevertheless  threatens  those 
who  refuse  to  accept  his  injunctions.    Cp.  below,  xxix.,  9. 


astical  blessings  and  sacramentals,  not  to  speak  of  holy 
days  and  prescribed  fasts.  With  good  reason  can  one  speak 
of  a  "  huge  decline." 

He  justifies  as  follows  his  radical  opposition  to  the 
Catholic  forms  of  Divine  worship  :  "  The  only  good  we  can 
do  in  God's  service  is  to  praise  and  thank  Him,  in  which  in 
fact  the  only  true  worship  of  God  consists.  ...  If  any 
other  worship  of  God  be  proposed  to  you,  know  that  it  is 
error  and  deception."1  "  It  is  a  rank  scandal  that  the  Papists 
should  encourage  people  to  toil  for  God  with  works  so  as 
thereby  to  expiate  their  sins  and  secure  grace.  ...  If  you 
wish  to  believe  aright  and  really  to  lay  hold  on  Christ,  you 
must  discard  all  works  whereby  you  may  think  you  labour 
for  God  ;  all  such  are  nothing  but  scandals  leading  you  away 
from  Christ  and  from  God  ;  in  God's  sight  no  work  is  of  any 
value  except  Christ's  own  ;  this  you  must  leave  to  toil  for 
you  in  God's  sight ;  you  yourself  must  perform  no  other 
work  for  Him  than  to  believe  that  Christ  does  His  work 
for  you."2 

In  the  same  passage  he  attempts  to  vindicate  this  species 
of  Quietism  with  the  help  of  some  recollections  from  his  own 
earlier  career,  viz.  by  the  mystic  .principle  which  had  at  one 
time  ruled  him  :  "  You  must  be  blind  and  lame,  deaf  and 
dead,  poor  and  leprous,  or  else  you  will  be  scandalised  in 
Christ.  This  is  what  it  means  to  know  Christ  aright  and  to 
accept  Him  ;  this  is  to  believe  as  befits  a  true  Christian."3 

2.  "  All  other  works,  apart  from  faith,  must  be  directed 
towards  our  neighbour."4  As  we  know,  besides  that  faith, 
gratitude  and  love  which  are  God's  due,  Luther  admits  no 
good  works  but  those  of  charity  towards  our  neighbour.  By 
our  faith  we  give  to  God  all  that  He  asks  of  us.  "  After  this, 
think  only  of  doing  for  your  neighbour  what  Christ  has  done 
for  you,  and  let  all  your  works  and  all  your  life  go  to  the 
service  of  your  neighbour."5 — God,  he  says  elsewhere,  asks 
only  for  our  thank-offering  ;  "  look  upon  Me  as  a  Gracious 
God  and  I  am  content  "  ;  "  thereafter  serve  your  neigh- 
bour, freely  and  for  nothing."6  Good  works  in  his  eyes  are 
only  "  good  when  they  are  profitable  to  others  and  not  to 

1  "  Werke,"  ib.,  72,  p.  68.  2  lb.,  102,  p.  108. 

3  On  dying  spiritually,  cp.  vol.  i.,  p.  169  and  passim. 

4  "  Werke,"  Erl.  ed.,  102,  p.  108.  6  Ib. 
6  "  Werke,"  Erl.  ed.,  132,  p.  206. 


yourself."  Indeed  he  goes  so  far  as  to  assert :  "  If  you  find 
yourself  performing  a  work  for  God,  or  for  His  Saints,  or  for 
yourself  and  not  alone  for  your  neighbour,  know  that  the 
work  is  not  good."1  The  only  explanation  of  such  sentences, 
as  already  hinted,  is  to  be  found  in  his  passionate  polemics 
against  the  worship  and  the  pious  exercises  of  the  Catholics. 
It  is  true  that  such  practices  were  sullied  at  that  time  by 
certain  blemishes,  owing  to  the  abuses  rampant  in  the 
Church  ;  yet  the  Catholic  could  confidently  answer  in  self- 
defence  in  the  words  Luther  proceeds  to  put  on  his  lips  : 
Such  "  works  are  spiritual  and  profitable  to  the  soul  of  our 
neighbour,  and  God  thereby  is  served  and  propitiated  and 
His  Grace  obtained." 

Luther  rudely  retorts  :  "  You  lie  in  your  throat ;  God  is 
served  not  by  works  but  by  faith ;  faith  must  do  everything 
that  is  to  be  done  as  between  God  and  ourselves."  That 
the  priests  and  monks  should  vaunt  their  religious  exercises 
as  spiritual  treasures,  he  brands  asa  "  Satanic  lie."  "  The 
works  of  the  Papists  such  as  organ-playing,  chanting, 
vesting,  ringing,  smoking  [incensation],  sprinkling,  pilgrim- 
ing  and  fasting,  etc.,  are  doubtless  fine  and  many,  grand  and 
long,  broad  and  thick  works,  but  about  them  there  is  nothing 
good,  useful  or  profitable." 

3.  "  Know  that  there  are  no  good  works  but  such  as  God 
has  commanded."  What,  apart  from  faith,  makes  a  work  a 
good  one  is  solely  God's  express  command.  Luther,  while 
finding  fault  with  the  self-chosen  works  of  the  Catholics, 
points  to  the  Ten  Commandments  as  summing  up  every 
good  work  willed  by  God.  "  There  used  to  be  ecclesiastical 
precepts  which  were  to  supersede  the  Decalogue."  "  The 
commandments  of  the  Church  were  invented  and  set  up  by 
men  in  addition  to  and  beyond  God's  Word.  Luther  there- 
fore deals  with  the  true  worship  of  God  in  the  light  of  the 
Ten  Commandments."2  As  for  the  Evangelical  Counsels  so 
solemnly  enacted  in  the  New  Testament,  viz.  the  striving 
after  a  perfection  which  is  not  of  obligation,  Luther,  urged 
on  by  his  theory  that  only  what  is  actually  commanded 

1  "  Werke,"  Erl.  ed.,  102,  p.  25.  Cp.  on  Luther's  restriction  of  good 
works  to  practical  love  of  our  neighbour,  vol.  iv.,  p.  477  ff.,  and  above, 
p.  26,  38  f. 

2  Chr.  E.  Luthardt,  "  Die  Ethik  Luthers  in  ihren  Grundzugen,"  2, 
1875,  p.  70. 


partakes  of  the  nature  of  a  good  work,  came  very  near 
branding  them  as  an  invention  of  the  Papists. 

They  have  "  made  the  Counsels  twelve"  in  number,1  he  says, 
11  and  twist  the  Gospel  as  they  please."  They  have  split  the 
Gospel  into  two,  into  "  Consilia  et  prcecepta."  "  Christ,"  so  he 
teaches,  "  gave  only  one  Counsel  in  the  whole  of  the  Gospel,  viz. 
that  of  chastity,  which  even  a  layman  can  preserve,  assuming 
him  to  have  the  grace."  He  sneers  at  the  Pope  and  the  Doctors 
because  they  had  established  not  only  a  clerical  order  which 
should  be  superior  to  the  laity,  but  also  an  order  of  the  counsels 
the  duty  of  whose  members  it  was  to  portray  the  Evangelical 
perfection  by  the  keeping  of  the  three  vows  of  poverty,  chastity 
and  obedience.  "  By  this  the  common  Christian  life  and  faith 
became  like  flat,  sour  beer  ;  everyone  rubbed  his  eyes,  despised 
the  commandments  and  ran  after  the  counsels.  And  after  a 
good  while  they  at  last  discovered  man-made  ordinances  in  the 
shape  of  habits,  foods,  chants,  lessons,  tonsures,  etc.,  and  thus 
God's  Law  went  the  way  of  faith,  both  being  blotted  out  and 
forgotten,  so  that,  henceforth,  to  be  perfect  and  to  live  according 
to  the  counsels  means  to  wear  a  black,  white,  grey  or  coloured 
cowl,  to  bawl  in  church,  wear  a  tonsure  and  to  abstain  from  eggs, 
meat,  butter,  etc."2 

In  the  heat  of  his  excitement  he  even  goes  so  far  as  to  deny 
the  necessity  of  any  service  in  the  churches,  because  God  demands 
only  the  praise  and  thanks  of  the  heart,  and  "  this  may  be  given 
.  .  .  equally  well  in  the  home,  in  the  field,  or  anywhere  else." 
"  If  they  should  force  any  other  service  upon  you,  know  that  it 
is  error  and  deception  ;  just  as  hitherto  the  world  has  been  crazy, 
with  its  houses,  churches  and  monasteries  set  aside  for  the 
worship  of  God,  and  its  vestments  of  gold  and  silk,  etc.  .  .  . 
which  expenditure  had  better  been  used  to  help  our  neighbour, 
if  it  was  really  meant  for  God."3 

It  was  of  course  impossible  for  him  to  vindicate  in  the  long 
run  so  radical  a  standpoint  concerning  the  churches,  and,  else- 
where, he  allows  people  their  own  way  on  the  question  of  litur- 
gical vestments  and  other  matters  connected  with  worship. 

4.  The  good  works  which  are  performed  where  there  is 
no  "  faith "  amount  to  sin.  This  strangely  unethical 
assertion  Luther  is  fond  of  repeating  in  so  extravagant  a 
form  as  can  only  be  explained  psychologically  by  the  utter 
blindness  of  his  bias  in  favour  of  the  "  fides  specialis  "  by  him 
discovered.  True  morality  belongs  solely  to  those  who  have 
been  justified  after  his  own  fashion,  and  no  others  have  the 
slightest  right  to  credit  themselves  with  anything  of  the  sort. 

1  Cp.  "  Compend.  totiustheol.  Hugonis  Argentorat.  o.p.,"  V.  cap.  ult. 

2  Quoted  from  Luthardt,  ib.,  pp.  70-73. 

3  "  Werke,"  Erl.  ed.,  72,  p.  68. 


When,  in  1528,  in  his  "  Great  Confession  "  he  expounded  his 
"  belief  bit  by  bit,"  declaring  that  he  had  "  most  diligently- 
weighed  all  these  articles  "  as  in  the  presence  of  death  and 
judgment,  he  there  wrote  :  "  Herewith  I  reject  and  condemn 
as  rank  error  every  doctrine  that  exalts  our  free-will,  which  is 
directly  opposed  to  the  help  and  grace  of  our  Saviour  Jesus 
Christ.  For  seeing,  that,  outside  of  Christ,  death  and  sin  are  our 
masters  and  the  devil  our  God  and  sovereign,  there  can  be  no 
power  or  might,  no  wit  or  understanding  whereby  we  could  make 
ourselves  fit  for,  or  could  even  strive  after,  righteousness  and  life, 
but  on  the  contrary  we  must  remain  blind  and  captive,  slaves  of 
sin  and  the  devil,  and  must  do  what  pleases  them  and  runs 
counter  to  God  and  His  Commandments."1  Even  the  most 
pious  of  the  Papists,  he  goes  on  to  say,  since  they  lack  Christ  and 
the  "  Faith,"  have  "  merely  a  great  semblance  of  holiness," 
and  although  "  there  seem  to  be  many  good  works  "  among  them, 
"  yet  all  is  lost  "  ;  chastity,  poverty  and  obedience  as  practised 
in  the  convents  is  nothing  but  "  blasphemous  holiness,"  and 
"  what  is  horrible  is  that  thereby  they  refuse  Christ's  help  and 

This,  his  favourite  idea,  finds  its  full  expression  in  his  learned 
Latin  Commentary  on  Galatians  (1535)  :  "  In  the  man  who  does 
not  believe  in  Christ  not  only  are  all  sins  mortal,  but  even  his 
good  works  are  sins  "  ;3  for  the  benefit  of  the  people  he  enunciates 
the  same  in  his  Church-Postils.  "  The  works  performed  without 
faith  are  sins  .  .  .  for  such  works  of  ours  are  soiled  and  foul  in 
God's  eyes,  nay,  He  looks  on  them  with  horror  and  loathing." 
As  a  matter  of  course  he  thinks  that  God  looks  upon  concupis- 
cence as  sin,  even  in  its  permissible  manifestations,  e.g.  in  the 
"  opus  conjugalis."  Amongst  the  heathen  even  virtues  such  as 
patriotism,  continence,  justice  and  courage  in  which,  owing  to 
the  divine  impulses  ("  divini  motus  "),  they  may  shine,  are 
tainted  by  the  presence  in  them  of  original  sin  ("in  ipsis  heroicis 
virtutibus  depravata  ").4  As  to  whether  such  men  were  saved, 
Luther  refuses  to  say  anything  definite  ;  he  holds  fast  to  the 
text  that  without  faith  it  is  impossible  to  please  God.  Only 
those  who,  in  the  days  of  Noe,  did  not  believe  may,  so  he  declares, 
be  saved  in  accordance  with  his  reading  of  1  Peter  iii.  19  by 
Christ's  preaching  of  salvation  on  the  occasion  of  His  descent 
into  hell.  He  is  also  disposed  to  include  among  those  saved  by 
this  supposed  course  of  sermons  delivered  "in  inferis,"  such  fine 
men  of  every  nation  as  Scipio,  Fabius  and  others  of  their  like. 5 

In  general,  however,  the  following  holds  good  :  Before  "  faith 
and  grace  "  are  infused  into  the  heart  "  by  the  Spirit  alone," 
"  as  the  work  of  God  which  He  works  in  us  " — everything  in 

1  "  Werke,"  Weim.  ed.,  26,  p.  502  f.  ;  Erl.  ed.,  30,  p.  365. 

2  lb.,  pp.  507,  509  =  370,  372. 

3  Ed.  Irmischer,  3,  p.  25.    Cp.  Loofs,  "  DG.,"  4,  p.  705. 

4  "  Werke,"  Erl.  ed.  152,  p.  60.  "  Opp.  lat.  exeg.,"  2,  p.  273  sqq. ; 
19,  p.  18;  24,  p.  463,  sq.     "Disputationes,"  ed.  Drews,  pp.  115,  172. 

6  Cp.  Kostlin,  "  Luthers  Theol.,"  22,  p.  169  f.,  the  passages  quoted. 


man  is  the  "  work  of  the  Law,  of  no  value  for  justification,  but 
unholy  and  opposed  to  God  owing  to  the  unbelief  in  which  it  is 

Annulment  of  the  Supernatural  and  Abasement  of  the 
Natural  Order 

From  the  above  statements  it  is  clear  that  Luther,  in 
doing  away  with  the  distinction  between  the  natural  and 
supernatural  order,  also  did  away  with  the  olden  doctrine  of 
virtue,  and  without  setting  up  anything  positive  in  its  place. 
He  admits  no  naturally  good  action  different  from  that  per- 
formed "  by  faith  and  grace  "  ;  no  such  thing  exists  as  a 
natural,  moral  virtue  of  justice.  This  opinion  is  closely 
bound  up  with  his  whole  warfare  on  man's  natural  character 
and  endowments  in  respect  of  what  is  good.  Moreover, 
what  he  terms  the  state  of  grace  is  not  the  supernatural  state 
the  Church  had  always  understood,  but  an  outward  imputa- 
tion by  God ;  it  is  indeed  God's  goodness  towards  man,  but 
no  new  vital  principle  thanks  to  which  we  act  justly.2 

Not  only  does  he  deny  the  distinction  between  natural  and 
supernatural  goodness,  essential  as  it  is  for  forming  an 
ethical  estimate  of  man,  but  he  practically  destroys  both  the 
natural  and  supernatural  order.  Even  in  other  points  of 
Luther's  doctrine  we  can  notice  the  abrogation  of  the 
fundamental  difference  between  the  two  orders  ;  for 
instance  in  his  view  of  Adam's  original  state,  which,  accord- 
ing to  him,  was  a  natural  not  a  supernatural  one,  "  no 
gift,"  as  he  says,  "  apart  from  man's  nature,  and  bestowed 
on  him  from  without,  but  a  natural  righteousness  so  that  it 
came  natural  to  him  to  love  God  [as  he  did],  to  believe  in 
Him  and  to  acknowledge  Him."3  It  is,  however,  in  the 
moral  domain  that  this  peculiarity  of  his  new  theology  comes 
out  most  glaringly.  Owing  to  his  way  of  proceeding  and  the 
heat  of  his  polemics  he  seems  never  to  have  become  fully 
conscious  of  how  far-reaching  the  consequences  were  of  his 

1  "  Werke,"  Weim.  ed.,  10,  1,  1,  p.  340  ;  Erl.  ed.,  72,  p.  261. — For 
the  theological  and  psychological  influences  which  led  him  to  these 
statements,  see  vol.  i.,  pp.  72  ft\,  149  ft\ 

2  Cp.  what  Luther  says  in  his  Comm.  on  Romans  in  1515-16  :  It 
depends  entirely  "  on  the  gracious  Will  of  God  whether  a  thing  is  to  be 
good  or  evil,"  and  "  Nothing  is  of  its  own  nature  good,  nothing  of  its 
own  nature  evil,"  etc.,  vol.  i.,  p.  211  f. 

3  "  Opp.  lat.  exeg.,"  1,  p.  109,     "  In  Genesim,"  c.  3, 

V.— E 


destruction  of  all  distinction  between  the  natural  and  the 
supernatural  order. 

Natural  morality,  viz.  that  to  which  man  attains  by  means 
of  his  unaided  powers,  appears  to  him  simply  an  invention  of 
the  pagan  Aristotle.  He  rounds  on  all  the  theologians  of  his 
day  for  having  swallowed  so  dangerous  an  error  in  their 
Aristotelian  schools  to  the  manifest  detriment  of  the  divine 
teaching.  This  he  does,  for  instance,  at  the  commencement 
of  his  recently  published  Commentary  on  Romans.  He  calls 
it  a  "  righteousness  of  the  philosophers  and  lawyers  "  in 
itself  utterly  worthless.1  A  year  later,  in  his  manuscript 
Commentary  on  Hebrews,  he  has  already  reached  the 
opinion,  that,  "  the  virtues  of  all  the  philosophers,  nay, 
of  all  men,  whether  they  be  lawyers  or  theologians,  have 
only  a  semblance  of  virtue,  but  in  reality  are  vices 
(*  vitia  ')."  2 

But  what  would  be  quite  incomprehensible,  had  he 
actually  read  the  scholastic  theologians  whose  "  civil, 
Aristotelian  doctrine  of  justice  "  he  was  so  constantly 
attacking,  is,  that  he  charges  them  with  having  stopped 
short  at  this  natural  justice  and  with  not  having  taught  any- 
thing higher  ;  this  higher  justice  was  what  he  himself  had 
brought  to  light,  this  was  the  "  Scriptural  justice  which 
depended  more  on  the  Divine  imputation  than  on  the  nature 
of  things,"3  and  was  not  acquired  by  deeds  but  bestowed  by 
God.  The  fact  is,  however,  that  the  Schoolmen  did  not  rest 
content  merely  with  natural  justice,  but  insist  that  true 
justice  is  something  higher,  supernatural  and  only  to  be 
attained  to  with  the  help  of  grace  ;  it  is  only  in  some  few 
later  theologians  with  whom  Luther  may  possibly  have 
been  acquainted,  that  this  truth  fails  to  find  clear  expression. 
Thomas  of  Aquin,  for  instance,  distinguishes  between  the 
civil  virtue  of  justice  and  the  justice  infused  in  the  act  of 
justification.  He  says  expressly  :  "  A  man  may  be  termed 
just  in  two  ways,  on  account  of  civil  [natural]  justice  and  on 
account  of  infused  justice.  Civil  justice  is  attained  to  with- 
out the  grace  which  comes  to  the  assistance  of  the  natural 
powers,  but  infused  justice  is  the  work  of  grace.  Neither  the 
one  nor  the  other,  however,  consists  in  the  mere  doing  of 

1  See  vol.  i.,  p.  148  f.    Cp.  Denifle- Weiss,  l2,  p.  527,  n.  1. 

2  Denifle-Weiss,  ib.,  p.  528,  n.  2. 

:!  Denifle-Weiss,  ib.,  p.  527.    Cp.  our  vol.  i.,  p.  148  f, 


what  is  good,  for  not  everyone  who  does  what  is  good  is  just, 
but  only  he  who  does  it  as  do  the  just."1 

With  regard  to  supernatural  (infused)  justice,  the  Church's 
representatives,  quite  differently  from  Luther,  had  taught  that 
man  by  his  natural  powers  could  only  attain  to  God  as  the  Author 
of  nature  but  not  to  God  as  He  is  in  Himself,  i.e.  to  God  as  He 
has  revealed  and  will  communicate  Himself  in  heaven  ;  it  is 
infused,  sanctifying  grace  alone  that  places  us  in  a  higher  order 
than  that  of  nature  and  raises  us  to  the  status  of  being  children 
of  God  ;  in  it  we  love  God,  by  virtue  of  the  "  habit  "  of  love 
bestowed  upon  us,  as  He  is  in  Himself,  i.e.  as  He  wills  to  be  loved  ; 
sanctifying  grace  it  is  that  brings  us  into  a  true  relation  with  our 
supernatural  and  final  end,  viz.  the  vision  of  God  in  heaven,  in 
which  sense  it  may  be  called  a  vital  principle  infused  into  the 
soul. 2 

This  language  Luther  either  did  not  or  would  not  understand. 
On  this  point  particularly  he  had  to  suffer  for  his  ignorance  of 
the  better  class  of  theologians.  He  first  embraced  Occam's 
hypothesis  of  the  possibility  of  an  imputation  of  justice,  and 
then,  going  further  along  the  wrong  road,  he  changed  this  possi- 
bility into  a  reality  ;  soon,  owing  to  his  belief  in  the  entire  cor- 
ruption of  the  natural  man,  imputed  justice  became,  to  him,  the 
only  justice.  In  this  way  he  deprived  theology  of  supernatural 
as  well  as  of  natural  justice  ;  for  imputed  justice  is  really  no 
justice  at  all,  but  merely  an  alien  one.  "  With  Luther  we  have 
the  end  of  the  supernatural.  His  basic  view,  of  justifying  faith 
as  the  work  of  God  in  us  performed  without  our  co-operation, 
bears  indeed  a  semblance  of  the  supernatural.  .  .  .  But  the 
supernatural  is  ever  something  alien."3 

What  he  had  in  his  mind  was  always  a  foreign  righteousness 
produced,  not  by  man's  own  works  and  acts  performed  under 
the  help  of  grace,  but  only  by  the  work  of  another  ;  this  we  are 
told  by  Luther  in  so  many  words  :  "  True  and  real  piety  which 
is  of  worth  in  God's  sight  consists  in  alien  works  and  not  in  our 
own."4  "If  we  wish  to  work  for  God  we  must  not  approach 
Him  with  our  own  works  but  with  foreign  ones."  "  These  are 
the  works  of  Our  Lord  Jesus  Christ."  "  All  that  He  has  is  ours. 
...  I  may  attribute  to  myself  all  His  works  as  though  I  had 
actually  done  them,  if  only  I  believe  in  Christ.  .  .  .  Our  works 

1  "  In  2  Sent.,"  dist.  28,  a.  1  ad  4.  Denifle- Weiss,  ib.,  p.  482,  n.  1. 
Cp.  Luther's  frequent  statement,  already  sufficiently  considered  in  our 
vol,  iv.,  p.  476  f.,  in  which  he  sums  up  his  new  standpoint  :  Good 
works  never  make  a  good  man,  but  good  men  perform  good  works. 

2  Cp.  Denifle-Weiss,  ib.,  p.  598. 

3  Denifle-Weiss,  p.  604.  Cp.  also  p.  600,  n.  2,  where  Denifle  remarks  : 
"  Being  an  Occamist  he  never  understood  actual  grace." 

4  "  Werke,"  Erl.  ed.,  152,  p.  60.  After  the  words  quoted  above 
follows  the  remarkable  passage  :  One  builds  churches,  another  makes 
pilgrimages,  etc.  "  These  are  self-chosen  works  which  God  has  not 
commanded.  .   .  .  Such  self-chosen  works  are  nought  .   .   .  are  sin." 


will  not  suffice,  all  our  powers  together  are  too  weak  to  resist 
even  the  smallest  sin.  .  .  .  Hence  when  the  Law  comes  and 
accuses  you  of  not  having  kept  it,  send  it  to  Christ  and  say :  There 
is  the  Man  who  has  fulfilled  it,  to  Him  I  cling,  He  has  fulfilled 
it  for  me  and  bestowed  His  fulfilment  of  it  upon  me  ;  then  the 
Law  will  have  to  hold  its  tongue."1 

The  Book  of  Concord  on  the  Curtailment  of  Free-Will. 

When  orthodox  Lutheranism  gained  a  local  and  temporary 
victory  in  1580  with  the  so-called  Book  of  Concord,  the 
authors  of  the  book  deplored  the  inferences  drawn  from 
Luther's  moral  teaching,  particularly  from  his  denial  of 
free-will,  the  dangers  of  which  had  already  long  been 

"  It  is  not  unknown  to  us,"  they  say,  "  that  this  holy  doctrine 
of  the  malice  and  impotence  of  free-will,  the  doctrine  whereby 
our  conversion  and  regeneration  is  ascribed  solely  to  God  and  in 
no  way  to  our  own  powers,  has  been  godlessly,  shamelessly  and 
hatefully  abused.  .  .  .  Many  are  becoming  immoral  and  savage 
and  neglectful  of  all  pious  exercises  ;  they  say  :  '  Since  we  can- 
not turn  to  God  of  our  own  natural  powers,  let  us  remain  hostile 
to  God  or  wait  until  He  converts  us  by  force  and  against  our 
will.'  "  "  It  is  true  that  they  possess  no  power  to  act  in  spiritual 
things,  and  that  the  whole  business  of  conversion  is  merely  the 
work  of  the  Holy  Ghost.  And  thus  they  refuse  to  listen  to  the 
Word  of  God,  or  to  study  it,  or  to  receive  the  Sacraments  ;  they 
prefer  to  wait  until  God  infuses  His  gifts  into  them  directly  from 
above,  and  until  they  feel  and  are  certain  by  inward  experience 
that  they  have  been  converted  by  God." 

"  Others,"  they  continue,  speaking  of  the  case  as  a  possibility 
and  not  as  a  sad  reality,  "  may  possibly  give  themselves  up  to 
sad  and  dangerous  doubts  as  to  whether  they  have  been  pre- 
destined by  God  to  heaven,  and  as  to  whether  God  will  really 
work  His  gifts  in  them  by  the  help  of  the  Holy  Ghost.  Being 
weak  and  troubled  in  mind  they  do  not  grasp  aright  our  pious 
doctrine  of  free-will,  and  they  are  confirmed  in  their  doubts  by  the 
fact  that  they  do  not  find  within  themselves  any  firm  and  ardent 
faith  or  hearty  devotion  to  God,  but  only  weakness,  misery  and 
fear."  The  authors  then  proceed  to  deal  with  the  widespread 
fear  of  predestination  to  hell. 2 

We  have  as  it  were  a  sad  monument  set  up  to  the  morality 
of  the  enslaved  will  and  the  doctrine  of  imputation,  when 
the  Book  of  Concord,  in  spite  of  the  sad  results  it  has  just 

1  lb.,  p.  61  f. 

2  "  Symb.  Biicher,"  ed.  Muller-Kolde,  10,  p.  599  f. 


admitted,  goes  on  in  the  same  chapter  to  insist  that  all 
Luther's  principles  should  be  preserved  intact.  "  This 
matter  Dr.  Luther  settled  most  excellently  and  thoroughly 
in  his  *  De  servo  arbitrio  '  against  Erasmus,  where  he  showed 
this  opinion  to  be  pious  and  irrefutable.  Later  on  he 
repeated  and  further  explained  the  same  doctrine  in  his 
splendid  Commentary  on  Genesis,  particularly  in  his 
exposition  of  ch.  xxvi.  There,  too,  he  made  other  matters 
clear — e.g.  the  doctrine  of  the  4  absoluta  necessitas ' — defended 
them  against  the  objections  of  Erasmus  and,  by  his  pious 
explanations,  set  them  above  all  evil  insinuations  and 
misrepresentations.  All  of  which  we  here  corroborate  and 
commend  to  the  diligent  study  of  all."1 

Melanchthon's  and  his  school's  modifications  of  these 
extreme  doctrines  are  here  sharply  repudiated,  though 
Luther  himself  "  never  spoke  with  open  disapproval  "  of 
Melanchthon's  Synergism.2 

"  From  our  doctrinal  standpoint,"  we  there  read,  "  it  is  plain 
that  the  teaching  of  the  Synergists  is  false,  who  allege  that  man 
in  spiritual  things  is  not  altogether  dead  to  what  is  good  but  merely 
badly  wounded  and  half  dead.  ...  They  teach  wrongly,  that 
after  the  Holy  Spirit  has  given  us,  through  the  Evangel,  grace, 
forgiveness  and  salvation,  then  free-will  is  able  to  meet  God  by 
its  natural  powers  and  .  .  .  co-operate  with  the  Holy  Ghost. 
In  reality  the  ability  to  lay  hold  upon  grace  ( '  facultas  applicandi 
se  ad  gratiam  ')  is  solely  due  to  the  working  of  the  Holy  Ghost." 

What  then  is  man  to  do,  and  how  are  the  consequences  de- 
scribed above  to  be  obviated,  on  the  one  hand  libertinism,  on  the 
other  fear  of  predestination  to  hell  ? 

Man  still  possesses  a  certain  freedom,  so  the  Book  of  Concord 
teaches,  e.g.  "  to  be  present  or  not  at  the  Church's  assemblies,  to 
listen  or  close  his  ears  to  the  Word  of  Gcd." 

"  The  preaching  of  the  Word  of  God  is  however  the  tool 
whereby  the  Holy  Ghost  seeks  to  effect  man's  conversion  and  to 
make  him  ready  to  will  and  to  work  ('  in  ipsis  et  velle  et  perficere 
operari  vult  ')."  "Man  is  free  to  open  his  ears  to  the  Word  of 
God  or  to  read  it  even  when  not  yet  converted  to  God  or  born 
again.  In  some  way  or  other  man  still  has  free-will  in  such  out- 
ward things  even  since  Adam's  Fall."    Hence,  by  the  Word,  "  by 

1  lb.  The  Thesis  of  man's  lack  of  freedom  is  bluntly  expressed  on 
p.  589,  and  in  the  sequel  it  is  pointed  out  that  in  Luther's  larger 
Catechism  not  one  word  is  found  concerning  free-will.  Reference  is 
made  to  his  comparison  of  man  with  the  lifeless  pillar  of  salt  (p.  593), 
and  to  Augustine's  "  Confessions  "  (p.  596). 

2  The  last  remark  is  from  Loofs,  "  DG.,"  4,  p.  857.  Cp.  our  vol.  iii., 
p.  348  ft",  and  passim. 


the  preaching  and  contemplation  of  the  sweet  Evangel  of  the 
forgiveness  of  sins,  the  spark  of  '  faith  '  is  enkindled  in  his 

"  Although  all  effort  without  the  power  and  work  of  the  Holy 
Spirit  is  worthless,  yet  neither  the  preacher  nor  the  hearer  must 
doubt  of  this  grace  or  work  of  the  Holy  Spirit,"  so  long  as  the 
preacher  proceeds  according  to  God's  will  and  command  and 
"  the  hearer  listens  earnestly  and  diligently  and  dwells  on  what 
he  hears."  We  are  not  to  judge  of  the  working  of  the  Holy  Ghost 
by  our  feelings,  but  "  agreeably  with  the  promises  of  God's 
Word."  We  must  hold  that  "  the  Word  preached  is  the  organ 
of  the  Holy  Ghost  whereby  He  truly  works  and  acts  in  our 

With  the  help  of  this  queer,  misty  doctrine  which,  as  we  may 
notice,  makes  of  preaching  a  sort  of  Sacrament  working  "  ex 
opere  operato,"  Luther's  followers  attempted  to  construct  a 
system  out  of  their  master's  varying  and  often  so  arbitrary 
statements.  At  any  rate  they  upheld  his  denial  of  any  natural 
order  of  morality  distinct  from  the  order  of  grace.  It  was  to 
remain  true  that  man,  "  previous  to  conversion,  possesses  indeed 
an  understanding,  but  not  of  divine  things,  and  a  will,  though 
not  for  anything  good  and  wholesome."  In  this  respect  man 
stands  far  below  even  a  stock  or  stone,  because  he  resists  the 
Word  and  Will  of  God  (which  they  cannot  do)  until  God  raises 
him  up  from  the  death  of  sin,  enlightens  and  creates  him  anew. 3 

Nevertheless  several  theses,  undoubtedly  Luther's  own,  are 
here  glossed  over  or  quietly  bettered.  If,  for  instance,  according 
to  Luther  everything  takes  place  of  absolute  necessity  (a  fact  to 
which  the  Formula  of  Concord  draws  attention),  if  man,  even 
in  the  natural  acts  of  the  mind,  is  bound  by  what  is  fore-ordained, 4 
then  even  the  listening  to  a  sermon  and  the  dwelling  on  it  cannot 
be  matters  of  real  freedom.  Moreover  the  man  troubled  with 
fears  on  predestination,  is  comforted  by  the  well-known  Bible 
texts,  which  teach  that  it  is  the  Will  of  God  that  all  should  be 
saved;  whilst  nothing  is  said  of  Luther's  doctrine  that  it  is 
only  the  revealed  God  who  speaks  thus,  whereas  the  hidden 
God  acts  quite  otherwise,  plans  and  carries  out  the  very  opposite, 
"  damns  even  those  who  have  not  deserved  it — and,  yet,  does 
not  thereby  become  unjust."5  Reference  is  made  to  Adam's 
Fall,  whereby  nature  has  been  depraved  ;  but  nothing  is  said 
of  Luther's  view  that  Adam  himself  simply  could  not  avoid 
falling  because  God  did  not  then  "  bestow  on  him  the  spirit  of 
obedience."0  But,  though  these  things  are  passed  over  in  silence, 
due  prominence  is  given  to  those  ideas  of  Luther's  of  which  the 
result  is  the  destruction  of  all  moral  order,  natural  as  well  as 

1  "  Symb.  Biicher,"  ib.,  p.  601.  2  Ib. 

3  lb.,  p.  602.  4  Cp.  vol.  ii.,  pp.  232,  265  f.,  290. 

5  Quoted  from  Loofs,  "  DG.,"  4,  p.  758.  On  the  statement  "  with- 
out on  that  account  being  unjust "  see  vol.  i.,  p.  187  ff.,  vol.  ii,  p.  268  f. 

6  "  Werke,"  Weim.  ed.,  18,  p.  675  ;  "  Opp.  lat.  var.,"  7,  p.  207. 
Cp.  Loofs,  ib.,  p.  757. 


supernatural.  According  to  the  Formula  of  Concord  the  natural 
order  was  shattered  by  Adam's  Fall  ;  as  for  the  supernatural 
order  it  is  replaced  by  the  alien,  mechanical  order  of  imputation. 

Christianity  merely  Inward.     The  Church  Sundered  from 
the  World 

Among  the  things  which  Luther  did  to  the  detriment  of 
the  moral  principle  must  be  numbered  his  merciless  tearing 
asunder  of  spiritual  and  temporal,  of  Christian  and  secular 

The  olden  Church  sought  to  permeate  the  world  with  the 
religious  spirit.  Luther's  trend  was  in  a  great  measure 
towards  making  the  secular  state  and  its  office  altogether 
independent  ;  this,  indeed,  the  more  up-to-date  sort  of 
ethics  is  disposed  to  reckon  among  his  greatest  achievements. 
Luther  even  went  so  far  as  to  seek  to  erect  into  a  regular 
system  this  inward,  necessary  opposition  of  world  and 
Church.  Of  this  we  have  a  plain  example  in  certain  of  his 
instructions  to  the  authorities.1  Whereas  the  Church  had 
exhorted  people  in  power  to  temper  with  Christianity  their 
administration  of  civil  justice  and  their  use  of  physical  force 
— urging  that  the  sovereign  was  a  Christian  not  merely  in 
his  private  but  also  in  his  official  capacity, — Luther  tells  the 
ruler  :  The  Kingdom  of  Christ  wholly  belongs  to  the  order 
of  grace,  but  the  kingdom  of  the  world  and  worldly  life 
belong  to  the  order  of  the  Law  ;  the  two  kingdoms  are  of 
a  different  species  and  belong  to  different  worlds.  To  the 
one  you  belong  as  a  Christian,  to  the  other  as  a  man  and 
a  ruler.  Christ  has  nothing  to  do  with  the  regulations  of 
worldly  life,  but  leaves  them  to  the  world  ;  earthly  life 
stands  in  no  need  of  being  outwardly  hallowed  by  the 
Church.2  Certain  statements  to  a  different  effect  will  be 
considered  elsewhere. 

"  A  great  distinction,"  Luther  said  in  1523,  "  must  be  made 
between  a  worldling  and  a  Christian,  i.e.  between  a  Christian 
and  a  worldly  man.  For  a  Christian  is -neither  man  nor  woman 
.  .  .  must  know  nothing  and  possess  nothing  in  the  world.  .  .  . 
A  prince  may  indeed  be  a  Christian,  but  he  must  not  rule  as  a 
Christian,  and  when  he  rules  he  does  so  not  as  a  Christian  but 
as  a  prince.     As  an  individual  he  is  indeed  a  Christian,  but  his 

1  Cp.  vol.  ii.,  p.  294  ft",  and  below,  xxxv.,  2. 

2  The  above  largely  reproduces  Luthardt,  "  Luthers  Ethik,"  2, 
p.  81  ff. 


office  or  princedom  is  no  business  of  his  Christianity."  This 
seems  to  him  proved  by  his  mystical  theory  that  a  Christian 
"  must  not  harm  or  punish  anyone  or  revenge  himself,  but  for- 
give everyone  and  endure  patiently  all  injustice  or  evil  that 
befalls  him."  The  theory,  needless  to  say,  is  based  on  his  mis- 
apprehension of  the  Evangelical  Counsels  which  he  makes  into 
commands.1  On  such  principles  as  these,  he  concludes,  it  was 
impossible  for  any  prince  to  rule,  hence  "  his  being  a  Christian 
had  nothing  to  do  with  land  and  subjects."2 

For  the  same  reason  he  holds  that  "  every  man  on  this  earth  " 
comprises  two  "  practically  antagonistic  personalities,"  for  "each 
one  has  at  the  same  time  to  suffer,  and  not  to  suffer,  everything."3 
The  dualism  which  Luther  here  creates  is  due  to  his  extravagant 
over-statement  of  the  Christian  law.  The  Counsels  of  Perfection 
given  by  Christ  in  the  Sermon  on  the  Mount,  with  which  Luther 
is  here  dealing  (not  to  resist  evil,  not  to  go  to  law,  etc.,  Mt.  v.  19  ff. ), 
are  not  an  invitation  addressed  to  all  Christians,  and  if  higher  con- 
siderations or  some  duty  stands  in  the  way  it  would  certainly 
denote  no  perfection  to  follow  them.  Luther's  misinterpretation 
necessarily  led  him  to  make  a  cleavage  between  Christian  life 
and  life  in  the  world. 

The  dualism,  however,  in  so  far  as  it  concerned  the  authorities 
had,  however,  yet  another  source.  For  polemical  reasons  Luther 
was  determined  to  make  an  end  of  the  great  influence  that  the 
olden  Church  had  acquired  over  public  life.  Hence  he  absolves  the 
secular  power  from  all  dependence  as  the  latter  had  itself  sought 
to  do  even  before  his  time.  He  refused  to  see  that,  in  spite  of  all 
the  abuses  which  had  followed  on  the  Church's  interference  in 
politics  during  the  Middle  Ages,  mankind  had  gained  hugely  by 
the  guidance  of  religion.  To  swallow  up  the  secular  power  in  the 
spiritual  had  never  been  part  of  the  Church's  teaching,  nor  was 
it  ever  the  ideal  of  her  enlightened  representatives  ;  but,  for  the 
morality  of  the  great,  for  the  observance  of  maxims  of  justice 
and  for  the  improvement  of  the  nations  the  principle  that  religion 
must  not  be  separated  from  the  life  of  the  State  and  from  the 
office  of  those  in  authority,  but  must  permeate  and  spiritualise 
them  was,  as  history  proved,  truly  vital.  Subsequent  to  Luther's 
day  the  tendency  to  separate  the  two  undoubtedly  made  un- 
checked progress.  He  himself,  however,  was  not  consistent  in 
his  attitude.  On  the  contrary,  he  came  more  and  more  to 
desiderate  the  establishment  of  the  closest  possible  bond  between 
the  civil  authorities  and  religion — provided  only  that  the  ruler's 
faith  was  the  same  as  Luther's.  Nevertheless,  generally  speaking, 
the  separation  he  had  advocated  of  secular  from  spiritual  became 
the  rule  in  the  Protestant  fold. 

1  See  our  vol.  ii.,  p.  298  f. 

2  "  Werke,"  Weim.  ed.,  32,  p.  439  ;  Erl.  ed.,  43,  p.  211.  Exposition 
of  Mt.  v.-vii.  Cp.  our  vol.  ii.,  p.  297  f.,  and  vol.  iii.,  pp.  52  f.,  60  :  A 
prince,  as  a  Christian,  must  not  even  defend  himself,  since  a  Christian 
is  dead  to  the  world. 

3  "  Werke,"  ib. 


11  Lutheranism,"  as  Friedrich  Paulsen  said  on  the  strength  of 
his  own  observations  in  regions  partly  Catholic  and  partly 
Protestant,  "  which  is  commonly  said  to  have  introduced  religion 
into  the  world  and  to  have  reconciled  public  worship  with  life  and 
the  duties  of  each  one's  calling  has,  as  a  matter  of  fact,  led  to 
the  complete  alienation  and  isolation  of  the  Church  from  real 
life  ;  on  the  contrary,  the  older  Church,  despite  all  her  '  over- 
worldliness,'  has  contrived  to  make  herself  quite  at  home  in  the 
world,  and  has  spun  a  thousand  threads  in  and  around  the  fabric 
of  its  life."  He  thinks  himself  justified  in  stating :  "Protestant- 
ism is  a  religion  of  the  individual,  Catholicism  is  the  religion  of 
the  people  ;  the  former  seeks  seclusion,  the  latter  publicity. 
In  the  one  even  public  worship  bears  a  private  character  and 
appears  as  foreign  to  the  world  as  the  pulpit  rhetoric  of  a  Lutheran 
preacher  of  the  old  school ;  the  [Protestant]  Church  stands  out- 
side the  bustle  of  the  workaday  world  in  a  world  of  her  own."1 

We  may  pass  over  the  fact,  that,  Luther,  by  discarding 
the  so-called  Counsels  reduced  morality  to  a  dead  level. 
In  the  case  of  all  the  faithful  he  abased  it  to  the  standard 
of  the  Law,  doing  away  with  that  generous,  voluntary 
service  of  God  which  the  Church  had  ever  approved  and 
blessed.  We  have  already  shown  this  elsewhere,  more 
particularly  in  connection  with  the  status  of  the  Evangelical 
Counsels  and  the  striving  after  Christian  perfection  in  the 
monastic  life.  According  to  him  there  are  practically  no 
Counsels  for  those  who  wish  to  pass  beyond  the  letter  of  the 
Law  ;  there  is  but  one  uniform  moral  Law,  and,  on  the  true 
Christian,  even  the  so-called  Counsels  are  strictly  binding.2 

Life  in  the  world,  however,  according  to  his  theory  has 
very  different  laws  ;  here  quite  another  order  obtains, 
which  is,  often  enough,  quite  the  opposite  to  what  man,  as 
a  Christian,  recognises  in  his  heart  to  be  the  true  standard. 
As  a  Christian  he  must  offer  his  cheek  to  the  smiter  ;  as 
a  member  of  the  civil  order  he  may  not  do  so,  but,  on  the 
contrary,  must  everywhere  vindicate  his  rights.  Thus  his 
Christianity,  so  long  as  he  lives  in  the  world,  must  perforce 
be  reduced  to  a  matter  of  inward  feeling  ;  it  is  constantly 
exposed  to  the  severest  tests,  or,  more  accurately,  constantly 
in  the  need  of  being  explained  away.  The  believer  is  faced 
by  a  twofold  order  of  things,  and  the  regulating  of  his  moral 
conduct  becomes  a  problem  which  can  never  be  satis- 
factorily solved. 

1  "  Jugenderinnerungen  aus  seinem  Nachlasse,"  Jena,  1909,  p.  155  f. 

2  Cp.  vol.  ii.,  p.  140  ff.  ;  vol.  iii.,  p.  187  ff.  ;  vol.  iv.,  p.  130  f. 


"  Next  to  the  doctrine  of  Justification  there  is  hardly  any 
other  doctrine  which  Luther  urges  so  frequently  and  so 
diligently  as  that  of  the  inward  character  and  nature  of 
Christ's  kingdom,  and  the  difference  thus  existing  between 
it  and  the  kingdom  of  the  world,  i.e.  the  domain  of  our 
natural  life."1 

Let  us  listen  to  Luther's  utterances  at  various  periods  on  the 
dualism  in  the  moral  life  of  the  individual  :  "  The  twin  kingdoms 
must  be  kept  wide  asunder  :  the  spiritual  where  sin  is  punished 
and  forgiven,  and  the  secular  where  justice  is  demanded  and 
dealt  out.  In  God's  kingdom  which  He  rules  according  to  the 
Gospel  there  is  no  demanding  of  justice,  but  all  is  forgiveness, 
remission  and  bestowal,  nor  is  there  any  anger,  or  punishment, 
but  nothing  save  brotherly  charity  and  service."2 — "No  rights, 
anger,  or  punishment,"  this  certainly  would  have  befitted  the 
invisible,  spiritual  Church  which  Luther  had  originally  planned 
to  set  up  in  place  of  the  visible  one. 3 

"  Christ's  everlasting  kingdom  ...  is  to  be  an  eternal 
spiritual  kingdom  in  the  hearts  of  men  by  the  preaching  of  the 
Gospel  and  by  the  Holy  Spirit."4  "For  your  own  part,  hold 
fast  to  the  Gospel  and  to  the  Word  of  Christ  so  as  to  be  ready  to 
offer  the  other  cheek  to  the  smiter,  to  give  your  mantle  as  well  as 
your  coat  whenever  it  is  a  question  of  yourself  and  your  cause."5 
It  is  a  strict  command,  though  at  utter  variance  with  the  civil 
law,  in  which  your  neighbour  also  is  greatly  concerned.  In  so 
far,  therefore,  you  must  resist.  "  Thus  you  manage  perfectly  to 
satisfy  at  the  same  time  both  the  Kingdom  of  God  and  that  of 
the  world,  both  the  outward  and  the  inward  ;  you  suffer  evil  and 
injustice  and  yet  at  the  same  time  punish  evil  and  injustice  ;  you 
do  not  resist  evil,  and  yet  at  the  same  time  you  resist  it ;  for 
according  to  the  one  you  look  to  yourself  and  to  yours,  and, 
according  to  the  other,  to  your  neighbour  and  to  his  rights.  As 
regards  yourself  and  yours,  you  act  according  to  the  Gospel  and 
suffer  injustice  as  a  true  Christian  ;  as  regards  your  neighbour 
and  his  rights,  you  act  in  accordance  with  charity  and  permit  no 

If,  as  is  but  natural,  we  ask,  how  Christ  came  so  strictly  to 
enjoin  what  was  almost  impossible,  Luther  replies  that  He  gave 
His  command  only  for  Christians,  and  that  real  Christians  were 
few  in  number  :  "In  point  of  fact  Christ  is  speaking  only  to  His 
dear  Christians  [when  He  says,  '  that  Christians  must  not  go  to 

1  Luthardt,  "  Luthers  Ethik,"  2,  p.  81. 

2  "  Werke,"  Erl.  ed.,  142,  p.  280  f. 

3  Cp.  vol.  ii.,  p.  107  for  Luther's  earlier  idea  of  the  "  holy  brother- 
hood of  spirits,"  in  which  "  omnia  sunt  indifferentia  et  libera."  See  also 
vol.  vi.,  xxxviii.,  3. 

4  "Werke,"  Erl.  ed.,  I2,  p.  108. 

5  lb.,  Weim.  ed.,  11,  p.  255  ;  Erl.  ed.,  22,  p.  73.  "  Von  welltlicher 
Uberkeytt,"  1523.  6  lb. 


law,'  etc.],  and  it  is  they  alone  who  take  it  and  carry  it  out ; 
they  make  no  mere  Counsel  of  it  as  the  Sophists  do,  but  are  so 
transformed  by  the  Spirit  that  they  do  evil  to  no  one  and  are 
ready  willingly  to  suffer  evil  from  anyone."  But  the  world  is 
full  of  non-Christians  and  "  them  the  Word  does  not  concern  at 
all."1  Worldlings  must  needs  tread  a  very  different  way  :  "  All 
who  are  not  Christians  belong  to  the  kingdom  of  the  world  and 
are  under  the  law."  Since  they  know  not  the  command  "  Resist 
not  evil,"  "  God  has  given  them  another  government  different 
from  the  Christian  estate,  and  the  Kingdom  of  God."  There 
ruleth  coercion,  severity,  and,  in  a  word,  the  Law,  "  seeing,  that, 
amongst  a  thousand,  there  is  barely  one  true  Christian."  "  If 
anyone  wished  to  govern  the  world  according  to  the  Gospel  .  .  . 
dear  heart,  what  would  the  result  be  !  He  would  be  loosening 
the  leashes  and  chains  of  the  wild  and  savage  beasts,  and  turn- 
ing them  astray  to  bite  and  tear  everybody.  .  .  .  Then  the 
wicked  would  abuse  the  Christian  freedom  of  the  Gospel  and 
work  their  own  knavery."2 

Luther  clung  to  the  very  end  of  his  life  to  this  congeries  of 
contradictory  theories,  which  he  advocated  in  1523,  in  his 
passionate  aversion  to  the  ancient  doctrine  of  perfection.  In 
1539  or  1540  he  put  forth  a  declaration  against  the  "  Sophists  " 
in  defence  of  his  theory  of  the  "  Counsels,"  directed  more  par- 
ticularly against  the  Sorbonne,  which  had  insisted  that  the 
"  consilia  evangelica,"  "  were  they  regarded  as  precepts,  would  be 
too  heavy  a  burden  for  religion."3  "  They  make  out  the 
Counsels,"  he  says,  "i.e.  the  commandments  of  God,  to  be  not 
necessary  for  eternal  life  and  invite  people  to  take  idolatrous,  nay, 
diabolical  vows.  To  lower  the  Divine  precepts  to  the  level  of 
counsels  is  a  horrible,  Satanic  blasphemy."  As  a  Christian  "  you 
must  rather  forsake  and  sacrifice  everything"  ;  to  this  the  first 
table  of  the  Law  (of  Moses,  the  Law  of  the  love  of  God)  binds 
you,  but,  on  account  of  the  second  table  (the  law  of  social  life), 
you  may  and  must  preserve  your  own  for  the  sake  of  your  family. 
As  a  Christian,  too,  you  must  be  willing  to  suffer  at  the  hands  of 
every  man,  "  but,  apart  from  your  Christian  profession,  you  must 
resist  evil  if  you  wish  to  be  a  good  citizen  of  this  world."4 

"  Hence  you  see,  O  Christian  brother,"  he  concludes,  "  how 
much  you  owe  to  the  doctrine  which  has  been  revived  in  our  day, 
as  against  a  Pharisaical  theology  which  leaves  us  nothing  even  of 
Moses  and  the  Ten  Commandments,  and  still  less  of  Christ." 

"  Such  honour  and  glory  have  I  by  the  grace  of  God — 
whether  it  be  to  the  taste  or  not  of  the  devil  and  his  brood 
— that,  since  the  days  of  the  Apostles,  no  doctor,  scribe, 
theologian  or  lawyer  has  confirmed,  instructed  and  com- 
forted the  consciences  of  the  secular  Estates  so  well  and 

1  lb.,  p.  252  =  70.  *  lb.,  p.  251  =  68. 

3  "  Opp.  lat.  var.,"  4,  p.  451.  *  lb.,  p.  445. 


lucidly  as  I  have  done  by  the  peculiar  grace  of  God.  Of  this 
I  am  confident.  For  neither  St.  Augustine  nor  St.  Ambrose, 
who  are  the  greatest  authorities  in  this  field,  are  here  equal 
to  me.  .  .  .  Such  fame  as  this  must  be  and  remain  known 
to  God  and  to  men  even  should  they  go  raving  mad  over  it."1 

It  is  true  that  his  theories  contain  many  an  element  of 
good  and,  had  he  not  been  able  to  appeal  to  this,  he  could 
never  have  spoken  so  feelingly  on  the  subject. 

The  good  which  lies  buried  in  his  teaching  had,  however, 
always  received  its  due  in  Catholicism.  Luther,  when 
contrasting  the  Church's  alleged  aversion  for  secular  life 
with  his  own  exaltation  of  the  dignity  of  the  worldly  calling, 
frequently  speaks  in  language  both  powerful  and  fine  of  the 
worldly  office  which  God  has  assigned  to  each  one,  not  only 
to  the  prince  but  even  to  the  humble  workman  and  tiller  of 
the  field,  and  of  the  noble  moral  tasks  which  thus  devolve 
on  the  Christian.  Yet  any  aversion  to  the  world  as  he 
conceives  it  had  never  been  a  principle  within  the  Church, 
though  individual  writers  may  indeed  have  erred  in  this 
direction.  The  assertion  that  the  olden  Church,  owing  to 
her  teaching  concerning  the  state  of  perfection  and  the 
Counsels,  had  not  made  sufficient  allowance  for  the  dignity 
of  the  secular  calling,  has  already  been  fully  dealt  with. 

It  is  true  that  Luther,  to  the  admiration  of  his  followers, 
confronted  the  old  Orders  founded  by  the  Church  with  three 
new  Orders,  all  Divinely  instituted,  viz.  the  home,  the  State 
and  the  Church.2  But,  so  far  from  "  notably  improving  " 
on  the  "  scholastic  ethics  "  of  the  past,  he  did  not  even 
contrive  to  couch  his  thoughts  on  these  "  Orders  "  in 
language  as  lucid  as  that  used  long  before  his  day  by  the 
theologians  and  moralists  of  the  Church  in  voicing  the  same 
idea  ;  what  he  says  of  these  "  Orders  "  also  falls  short  of 
the  past  on  the  score  of  wealth  and  variety.3  Nevertheless 
the  popular  ways  he  had  of  depicting  things  as  he  fain  would 
see  them,  proved  alluring,  and  this  gift  of  appealing  to  the 
people's  fancy  and  of  charming  them  by  the  contrast  of 
new  and  old,  helped  to  build  up  the  esteem  in  which  he  has 

1  "  Werke,"  Erl.  ed.,  31,  p.  236.  Verantwortung  der  auffgelegten 
Auffrur,  1533.    Cp.  our  vol.  ii.,  p.  294,  and  vol.  iv.,  p.  331. 

2  Luthardt,  "  Luthers  Ethik,"  2,  pp.  93-96. 

3  Cp.  vol.  iv.,  p.  127  ff.,  on  the  high  esteem  of  worldly  callings  in  the 
period  previous  to  Luther's.  Cp.  N.  Paulus,  "  Die  Wertung  der 
weltlichen  Berufe  im  MA."  ("  Hist.  Jahrb.,"  1911,  p.  725  ff.). 


been  held  ever  since  ;  his  inclination,  moreover,  to  promote 
the  independence  of  the  individual  in  the  three  "  Orders," 
and  to  deliver  him  from  all  hierarchical  influence  must 
from  the  outset  have  won  him  many  friends. 

Divorce  of  Religion  and  Morals 

Glancing  back  at  what  has  already  been  said  concerning 
Luther's  abasement  of  morality  and  considering  it  in  the 
light  of  his  theories  of  the  Law  and  Gospel,  of  assurance 
of  salvation  and  morality,  we  find  as  a  main  characteristic 
of  Luther's  ethics  a  far-reaching,  dangerous  rift  between 
religion  and  morals.  Morality  no  longer  stands  in  its  old 
position  at  the  side  of  faith. 

Faith  and  the  religion  which  springs  from  it  are  by  nature 
closely  and  intimately  bound  up  with  morality.  This  is 
shown  by  the  history  of  heathenism  in  general,  of  modern 
unbelief  in  particular.  Heathenism  or  unbelief  in  national 
life  always  signifies  a  moral  decline  ;  even  in  private  life 
morality  reacts  on  the  life  of  faith  and  the  religious  feeling, 
and  vice  versa.  The  harmony  between  religion  and  morality 
arises  from  the  fact  that  the  love  of  God  proceeds  from  faith 
in  His  dominion  and  Fatherly  kindness. 

Luther,  in  spite  of  his  assurances  concerning  the  stimulus 
of  the  life  of  faith  and  of  love,  severed  the  connection  between 
faith  and  morality  and  placed  the  latter  far  below  the 
former.  His  statements  concerning  faith  working  by  love, 
had  they  been  more  than  mere  words,  would,  in  themselves, 
have  led  him  back  to  the  very  standpoint  of  the  Church  he 
hated.  In  reality  he  regards  the  "  Law  "  as  something 
utterly  hostile  to  the  "  pious  "  soul  ;  before  the  true 
"  believer  "  the  Law  shrinks  back,  though,  to  the  man  not 
yet  justified  by  "  faith,"  it  serves  as  a  taskmaster  and  a 
hangman.  The  "  Law "  thus  loses  the  heavenly  virtue 
with  which  it  was  stamped.  In  Luther's  eyes  the  only  thing 
of  any  real  value  is  that  religion  which  consists  in  faith  in  the 
forgiveness  of  sins. 

"  This,"  he  says,  "  is  the  '  Summa  Summarwn  of  a  truly 
Christian  life,  to  know  that  in  Christ  you  have  a  Gracious  God 
ready  to  forgive  you  your  sins  and  never  to  think  of  them  again, 
and  that  you  are  now  a  child  of  everlasting  happiness,  reigning 
with  Christ  over  heaven  and  earth." 


It  is  true  he  hastens  to  add,  that,  from  this  saving  faith,  works 
of  morality  would  "  assuredly  "  flow.1 

"  Assuredly  "  ?  Since  Albert  Ritschl  it  has  been  repeated 
countless  times  that  Luther  did  no  more  than  "  assert  that  faith 
by  its  very  nature  is  productive  of  good  works."  As  a  matter  of 
fact  "he  is  wont  to  speak  in  much  too  uncertain  a  way  of  the 
good  works  which  follow  faith  "  ;  with  him  "  faith  "  is  the 
whole  man,  whereas  the  Bible  says  :  "  Fear  God  and  keep  His 
commandments  [i.e.  religion  plus  morality]  ;  this  is  the  whole 

Luther's  one-sided  insistence  on  a  confiding,  trusting  faith  in 
God,  at  the  cost  of  the  moral  work,  has  its  root  in  his  theory  of 
the  utter  depravity  of  man  and  his  entire  lack  of  freedom,  in 
his  low  esteem  for  the  presuppositions  of  morality,  in  his  con- 
viction that  nature  is  capable  of  nothing,  and,  owing  to  its  want 
of  self-determination,  is  unable  on  its  own  even  to  be  moral  at 
all.  If  we  desire,  so  he  says  frankly,  to  honour  God's  sublime 
majesty  and  to  humble  fallen  creatures  as  they  deserve,  then  let 
us  recognise  that  God  works  all  in  all  without  any  possibility  of 
any  resistance  whatsoever  on  man's  part,  God's  action  being  like 
to  that  of  the  potter  on  his  clay.  Just  as  Luther  was  unable  to 
recognise  justification  in  the  sense  in  which  it  had  been  taught 
of  yore,  so  also  he  entirely  failed  to  appreciate  the  profounder 
conception  of  morality. 

His  strictures  on  morality — which  had  ever  been  esteemed  as 
the  voluntary  keeping  of  the  Law  by  man,  who  by  a  generous 
obedience  renders  to  God  the  freedom  received — point  plainly 
to  the  cause  of  his  upheaval  of  the  whole  field  of  dogma.  At  the 
outset  he  had  set  himself  to  oppose  self-righteousness,  but  in 
doing  so  he  dealt  a  blow  at  righteousness  itself  ;  he  had  attacked 
justice  by  works,  but  justice  itself  had  suffered  ;  he  declared 
war  on  the  wholly  imaginary  phantom  of  a  self-chosen  morality 
based  on  man-made  ordinances  and  thereby  degraded  morality, 
if  he  did  not  indeed  undermine  its  very  foundations. 

What  Mohler  says  of  the  reformers  and  their  tendency  to  set 
aside  the  commands  of  morality  applies  in  particular  to  Luther 
and  his  passionate  campaign.  It  is  true  he  writes,  that  "  the 
moral  freedom  they  had  destroyed  came  to  involve  the  existence 
of  a  freedom  from  that  moral  law  which  concerns  only  the  seen, 
bounded  world  of  time,  but  fails  to  apply  in  the  eternal  world, 
set  high  above  all  time  and  space.    This  does  not  mean,  however, 

1  "  Werke,"  Erl.  ed.,  152,  p.  42  f. 

2  Cp.  W.  Walther,  "  Die  christliche  Sittlichkeit  nach  Luther,"  1909, 
p.  50,  where  Ritschl's  opinion  is  disputed.  The  above  complaint  of 
Luther's  "  uncertain  way  "  is  from  Ritschl,  who  was  not  the  first  to  make 
it ;  the  Bible  objection  is  also  much  older.  It  matters  nothing  that 
in  addition  to  the  faith  usually  extolled  as  the  source  of  works,  Luther 
also  mentions  the  Holy  Ghost  (see  passages  in  Walther,  p.  46  f.)  and 
once  even  speaks  of  the  new  feeling  as  though  it  were  a  gift  of  the 
Spirit  dwelling  in  His  very  substance  in  the  believer.  ("  Opp.  lat. 
exeg,."  19,  p.  109  sq.)  These  are  reminiscences  of  his  Catholic  days 
and  have  in  reality  nothing  to  do  with  his  doctrine  of  Imputation. 


that  the  reformers  were  conscious  of  what  lay  at  the  base  of  their 
system  ;  on  the  contrary,  had  they  seen  it,  had  they  perceived 
whither  their  doctrines  were  necessarily  leading,  they  would  have 
rejected  them  as  quite  unchristian."1 

The  following  reflection  of  the  famous  author  of  "  Catholic 
Symbolism  "  may  also  be  set  on  record,  the  better  to  safeguard 
against  misapprehension  anything  that  may  have  been  said, 
particularly  as  it  touches  upon  a  matter  to  which  we  repeatedly 
have  had  occasion  to  allude. 

"  No  one  can  fail  to  see  the  religious  element  in  Protestantism," 
he  says,  "  who  calls  to  mind  the  idea  of  Divine  Providence  held 
by  Luther  and  Melanchthon  when  they  started  the  work  of  the 
Reformation.  .  .  .  All  the  phenomena  of  this  world  [according 
to  it]  are  God's  own  particular  work  and  man  is  merely  His 
instrument.  Everything  in  the  history  of  the  world  is  God's 
invisible  doing  which  man's  agency  merely  makes  visible.  Who 
can  fail  to  see  in  this  a  truly  religious  outlook  on  all  things  ?  All 
is  referred  back  to  God,  Who  is  all  in  all.  .  .  .  In  the  same  way 
the  Redeemer  also  is  all  in  all  in  the  sense  that  He  and  His  Spirit 
are  alone  active,  and  faith  and  regeneration  are  solely  due  to 

Mohler  here  relates  how,  according  to  Luther,  Staupitz  had 
said  of  the  new  teaching  at  its  inception,  "  What  most  consoles 
me  is  that  it  has  again  been  brought  to  light  how  all  honour  and 
praise  belong  to  God  alone,  but,  to  man,  nothing  at  all."  This 
statement  is  quite  in  keeping  with  the  vague,  mystical  world  of 
thought  in  which  Staupitz,  who  was  no  master  of  theology  or 
philosophy,  lived.  But  it  also  reflects  the  impression  of  many 
of  Luther's  contemporaries  who,  unaware  of  his  misrepresentation 
of  the  subject,  were  attracted  by  the  advantage  to  religion  and 
morality  which  seemed  to  accrue  from  Luther's  effort  to  ascribe 
all  things  solely  to  God. 

Where  this  tendency  to  subordinate  all  to  God  and  to 
exalt  the  merits  of  Christ  finds  more  chastened  expression 
in  Luther's  writings,  when,  in  his  hearty,  homely  fashion,  he 
paints  the  love  of  the  Master  or  His  virtues  as  the  pattern  of 
all  morality,  or  pictures  in  his  own  peculiar  realistic  style 
the  conditions  of  everyday  life  the  better  to  lash  abuses, 
then  the  reader  is  able  to  appreciate  the  better  side  of  his 
ethics  and  the  truly  classic  example  he  sometimes  sets  of 
moral  exhortations.  It  would  surely  be  inexplicable  how  so 
many  earnest  Protestant  souls,  from  his  day  to  our  own, 
should  have  found  and  still  find  a  stimulus  in  his  practical 
works,  for  instance,  in  his  Postils,  did  these  works  not  really 
contain   a  substratum  of  truth,   food  for  thought   and  a 

1  "  Symbolik,"  §  25.  2  lb.,  §  26. 


certain  gift  of  inspiration.  Even  the  man  who  studies  the 
long  list  of  Luther's  practical  writings  simply  from  the 
standpoint  of  the  scholar  and  historian — though  he  may  not 
always  share  Luther's  opinions — cannot  fail  to  acknowledge 
that  the  warmth  with  which  Luther  speaks  of  those  Christian 
truths  accepted  by  all,  leaves  a  deep  impression  and  re- 
echoes within  the  soul  like  a  voice  from  our  common  home. 

On  the  one  hand  Luther  rightly  retained  many  profoundly 
religious  elements  of  the  mediaeval  theology,  indeed,  owing 
to  his  curious  way  of  looking  at  things,  he  actually  outdid  in 
medievalism  the  Middle  Ages  themselves,  for  he  merged  all 
human  freedom  in  the  Divine  action,  a  thing  those  Ages 
had  not  dared  to  do. 

And  yet,  on  the  other  hand,  to  conclude  our  survey  of 
his  "  abasement  of  practical  Christianity,"  he  is  so  ultra- 
modern on  a  capital  point  of  his  ethics  as  to  merit  being 
styled  the  precursor  of  modern  subjectivism  as  applied  to 
morals.  For  all  his  new  ethical  precepts  and  rules,  beyond 
the  Decalogue  and  the  Natural  Law,  are  devoid  of  ob- 
jective obligation  ;  they  lack  the  sanction  which  alone 
would  have  rendered  them  capable  of  guiding  the  human 

The  Lack  of  Obligation  and  Sanction 

Luther's  moral  instructions  differed  in  one  weighty  par- 
ticular from  those  of  the  olden  Church. 

As  he  himself  insists  at  needless  length,  they  were  a 
collection  of  personal  ftpinions  and  exhortations  which 
appeared  to  him  to  be  based  on  Holy  Scripture  or  the  Law 
of  Nature — -and  in  many  instances,  though  not  always, 
actually  did  rest  on  this  foundation.  When  he  issued  new 
pronouncements  of  a  practical  character,  for  instance, 
concerning  clandestine  espousals,  or  annulled  the  olden 
order  of  public  worship,  the  sacraments,  or  the  Command- 
ments of  the  Church,  he  was  wont  to  say,  that,  it  was  his 
intention  merely  to  advise  consciences  and  to  arouse  the 
Evangelical  consciousness.  He  took  this  line  partly  because 
he  was  conscious  of  having  no  personal  authority,  partly 
because  he  wished  to  act  according  to  the  principles  pro- 
claimed in  his  "  Von  der  Freyheyt  eynes  Christen  Menschen," 
or,  again,  in  order  to  prevent  the  rise  of  dissent  and  the 


resistance  he  always  dreaded  to  any  attempt  to  lay  down 
categorical  injunctions.  Thus  his  ethical  regulations,  so  far 
as  they  differed  from  the  olden  ones,  amounted  merely  to  so 
many  invitations  to  act  according  to  the  standard  set  up, 
whereas  the  character  of  the  ethical  legislation  of  Catholicism 
is  essentially  binding.  Having  destroyed  the  outward 
authority  of  the  Church,  he  had  nothing  more  to  count  upon 
than  the  "  ministry  of  the  Word,"  and  everything  now 
depended  on  the  minister's  being  able  to  convince  the 
believer,  now  freed  from  the  ancient  trammels. 

He  himself,  for  instance,  once  declared  that  he  would  "  assume 
no  authority  or  right  to  coerce,  for  I  neither  have  nor  desire 
any  such.  Let  him  rule  who  will  or  must  ;  I  shall  instruct  and 
console  consciences  as  far  as  I  am  able.  Who  can  or  wants  to 
obey,  let  him  do  so  ;  who  won't  or  can't,  let  him  leave  it  alone."1 

He  would  act  "  by  way  of  counsel,"  so  he  teaches,  "as  in 
conscience  he  would  wish  to  serve  good  friends,  and  whoever 
likes  to  follow  his  advice  must  do  so  at  his  own  risk."2  "He 
gives  advice  agreeably  to  his  own  conscience,"  writes  Luthardt  in 
"  Luthers  Ethik,"  "  leaving  it  to  others  to  accept  his  advice  or 
not  on  their  own  responsibility."3 

•  Nor  can  one  well  argue  that  the  requisite  sanction  for  the  new 
moral  rules  was  the  general  sanction  found  in  the  Scriptural 
threats  of  Divine  chastisements  to  overtake  transgressors.  The 
question  is  whether  the  Law  laid  down  in  the  Bible  or  written  in 
man's  heart  is  really  identical  with  Luther's.  Those  who  were 
unable  of  themselves  to  prove  that  this  was  the  case  were  ulti- 
mately (so  Luther  implies)  to  believe  it  on  his  authority  and 
conform  themselves  to  his  "  Evangelical  consciousness  "  ;  thus, 
for  instance,  in  the  matter  of  religious  vows,  held  by  Luther  to  be 
utterly  detestable,  and  by  the  Church  to  be  both  permissible  and 

In  but  few  points  does  the  purely  subjective  character  of 
the  new  religion  and  morality  advocated  by  Luther  stand 
out  so  clearly  as  in  this  absence  of  any  objective  sanction  or 
higher  authority  for  his  new  ethics.  Christianity  hitherto 
had  appealed  to  the  divine,  unchangeable  dignity  of  the 
Church,  which,  by  her  infallible  teaching,  her  discipline  and 
power  to  punish,  insured  the  observance  of  law  and  order 
in  the  religious  domain.  But,  now,  according  to  the  new 
teaching,  man — who  so  sadly  needs  a  clear  and  definite  lead 
for  his  moral  life — besides  the  Decalogue,   "  clear  "  Bible 

1  "  Werke,"  Weim.  ed.,  30,  3,  p.  206  ;  Erl.  ed.,  23,  p.  95. 

2  lb.  »  p.  111. 


text  and  Natural  Law,  is  left  with  nothing  but  "  recom- 
mendations "  devoid  of  any  binding  force  ;  views  are  dinned 
into  his  ears  the  carrying  out  of  which  is  left  solely  to  his 
feelings,  or,  as  Luther  says,  to  his  "  conscience." 

Deprived  of  the  quieting  guidance  of  an  authority  which 
proclaims  moral  obligations  and  sees  that  they  are  carried 
out,  conscience  and  personality  tend  in  his  system  to 
assume  quite  a  new  role. 

6.  The  part  played  by  Conscience  and  Personality.     Luther's 
warfare  with  his  old  friend  Caspar  Schwenckfeld 

Protestants  have  confidently  opined,  that  "  Luther 
mastered  anew  the  personal  foundation  of  morality  by 
reinstating  conscience  in  its  rights  "  ;  by  insisting  on  feeling 
he  came  to  restore  to  "  personality  the  dignity  "  which  in 
previous  ages  it  had  lost  under  the  ban  of  a  "  legalism  " 
devoid  of  "  morality." 

To  counter  such  views  it  may  be  of  use  to  give  some 
account  of  the  way  in  which  Luther  taught  conscience  to 
exercise  her  rights.  The  part  he  assigns  to  the  voice  within 
which  judges  of  good  and  evil,  scarcely  bears  out  the  con- 
tention that  he  really  strengthened  the  "  foundation  of 
morality."  The  vague  idea  of  "  personality  "  may  for  the 
while  be  identified  with  conscience,  especially  as  in  the 
present  connection  "  person  "  stands  for  the  medium  of 

On  Conscience  and  its  Exercise  in  General 

To  quiet  the  conscience,  to  find  some  inward  support  for 
one's  actions  in  the  exercise  of  one's  own  will,  this  is  what 
Luther  constantly  insists  on  in  the  moral  instructions  he 
gives,  at  the  same  time  pointing  to  his  own  example.2  What 

1  Owing  to  his  assertion  of  man's  unfreedom  and  passivity,  Luther 
found  it  very  difficult  to  retain  the  true  meaning  of  conscience.  So 
long  as  he  thought  in  any  way  as  a  Catholic  he  recognised  the  inner 
voice,  the  "  synteresis,"  that  urges  us  to  what  is  good  and  reproves 
what  is  evil,  leaving  man  freedom  of  choice  ;  this  we  see  from  his  first 
Commentary  on  the  Psalms,  above,  vol.  i.,  p.  76  f.  But  already  in  his 
Commentary  on  Romans  he  characterised  the  "  synteresis,"  and  the 
assumption  of  any  freedom  of  choice  on  man's  part,  as  the  loophole 
through  which  the  old  theology  had  dragged  in  its  errors  concerning 
grace.    (Above,  vol.  i.,  p.  233  f.) 

2  Cp.  W.  Walther,  "  Die  christl.  Sittlichkeit,"  p.  31. 


was  the  nature  of  his  own  example  ?  His  rebellion  against 
the  Church's  authority  was  to  him  the  cause  of  a  long,  fierce 
struggle  with  himself.  He  sought  to  allay  the  anxiety  which 
stirred  his  soul  to  its  depths  by  the  reassuring  thought,  that 
all  doubts  were  from  the  devil  from  whom  alone  all  scruples 
come  ;  he  sternly  bade  his  soul  rest  secure  and  as  resolutely 
refused  to  hearken  to  any  doubts  regarding  the  truth  of  his 
new  Evangel.  His  new  and  quite  subjective  doctrines  he 
defended  in  the  most  subjective  way  imaginable  and,  to 
those  of  his  friends  whose  consciences  were  troubled,  he 
recommends  a  similar  course  of  action  ;  he  even  on  several 
occasions  told  people  thus  disturbed  in  mind  whom  he 
wished  to  reassure,  that  they  must  listen  to  his,  Luther's, 
voice  as  though  it  were  the  voice  of  God.  This  was  his 
express  advice  to  his  pupil  Schlaginhaufen1  and,  in  later 
days,  to  his  friend  Spalatin,  who  also  had  become  a  prey  to 
melancholy."2  He  himself  claimed  to  have  been  delivered 
from  his  terrors  by  having  simply  accepted  as  a  God-sent 
message  the  encouraging  words  of  Bugenhagen.3 

"  Conscience  is  death's  own  cruel  hangman,"  so  he  told 
Spalatin  ;  from  Ambrose  and  Augustine  the  latter  should  learn 
to  place  all  his  trust  not  in  conscience  but  in  Christ. 4  It  scarcely 
needs  stating  that  here  he  is  misapplying  the  fine  sayings  of  both 
these  Fathers.  They  would  have  repudiated  with  indignation 
the  words  of  consolation  which  not  long  after  he  offered  the  man 
suffering  from  remorse  of  conscience,  assuring  him  that  he  was  as 
yet  a  novice  in  struggling  against  conscience,  and  had  hitherto 
been  "  too  tender  a  sinner  "  ;  "join  yourself  to  us  real,  big,  tough 
sinners,  that  you  may  not  belittle  and  put  down  Christ,  Who  is  the 
Saviour,  not  of  small,  imaginary  sinners,  but  of  great  and  real 
ones  "  ;  thus  it  was  that  he,  Luther,  had  once  been  consoled  in 
his  sadness  by  Staupitz. 5  Here  he  is  applying  wrongly  a  perfectly 
correct  thought  of  his  former  Superior.  Not  perhaps  quite  false, 
but  at  any  rate  thoroughly  Lutheran,  is  the  accompanying 
assurance  :  "I  stand  firm  [in  my  conscience]  and  maintain  my 
attitude,  that  you  may  lean  on  me  in  your  struggle  against  Satan 
and  be  supported  by  me." 

1  Above,  vol.  iv.,  p.  227.  "  You  are  to  believe  without  doubting 
what  God  Himself  has  spoken  to  you,  for  I  have  God's  authority  and 
commission  to  speak  to  and  to  comfort  you." 

2  Letter  of  Aug.  21,  1544,  "  Briefe,"  ed.  De  Wette,  5,  p.  680  : 
:    Believe  me,  Christ  speaks  through  me." 

3  "  Colloq.,"  ed.  Bindseil,  3,  p.  220  :  "  persuasi  mihi,  esse  de  coelo 
vocem  Dei." 

*  Letter  of  March  8,  1544,  "  Briefe,"  ib.,  p.  636. 
5  In  the  letter  quoted  in  n.  2,  ib.,  p.  679  f. 


Thus  does  he  direct  Spalatin,  who  was  tormented  by  remorse, 
to  comfort  himself  against  his  conscience."1 

"  To  comfort  oneself  against  one's  conscience,"  such  is  the 
task  which  Luther,  in  many  of  his  writings,  proposes  to  the 
believer.  Indeed,  in  his  eyes  the  chief  thing  of  all  is  to  "  get  the 
better  of  sin,  death,  hell  and  our  own  conscience  "  ;  in  spite  of 
the  opposition  of  reason  to  Luther's  view  of  Christ's  satisfaction, 
we  must  learn,  "  through  Him  [Christ]  to  possess  nothing  but 
grace  and  forgiveness,"  of  course,  in  the  sense  taught  at  Witten- 
berg. 2 

A  former  brother  monk,  Link,  the  apostate  Augustinian  of 
Nuremberg,  Luther  also  encourages,  like  Spalatin  the  fallen  priest, 
to  kick  against  the  prick  of  conscience  :  "  These  are  devil's 
thoughts  and  not  from  us,  which  make  us  despair,"  they  must 
be  "  left  to  the  devil,"  the  latter  always  "  keeps  closest  to  those 
who  are  most  pious  "  ;  to  yield  to  such  despairing  thoughts  "  is 
as  bad  as  giving  in  and  leaving  Satan  supreme."3 

When  praising  the  "  sole  "  help  and  consolation  of  the  grace 
of  Christ  he  does  not  omit  to  point  out,  directly  or  otherwise,  how, 
"  when  in  despair  of  himself,"  and  enduring  frightful  inward 
"  sufferings  "  of  conscience,  he  had  hacked  his  way  through  them 
all  and  had  reached  a  firm  faith  in  Christ  minus  all  works,  and  had 
thus  become  a  "  theologian  of  the  Cross."4 

Even  at  the  commencement  of  the  struggle,  in  order  to  en- 
courage wavering  followers,  he  allowed  to  each  man's  conscience 
the  right  to  defy  any  confessor  who  should  forbid  Luther's 
writings  to  such  of  his  parishioners  who  came  to  him  :  "  Absolve 
me  at  my  own  risk,"  they  were  to  say  to  him,  "  I  shall  not  give 
up  the  books,  for  then  I  should  be  sinning  against  my  conscience." 
He  argues  that,  according  to  Rom.  xiv.  1,  the  confessor  might 
not  "  urge  them  against  their  conscience."  Was  it  then  enough 
for  a  man  to  have  formed  himself  a  conscience,  for  the  precept 
no  longer  to  hold  ?  His  admonition  was,  however,  intended 
merely  as  a  counsel  for  "  strong  and  courageous  consciences." 
If  the  confessor  did  not  prove  amenable,  they  were  simply  to  "  go 
without  scruple  to  the  Sacrament,"  and  if  this,  too,  was  refused 
them  then  they  had  only  to  send  "  Sacrament  and  Church  " 
about  their  business. 5  Should  the  confessor  require  contrition  for 
sins  committed,  this,  according  to  another  of  his  statements,  was 
a  clear  attack  on  conscience  which  does  not  require  contrition 
for  absolution,  but  merely  faith  in  Christ ;  such  a  priest  ought  to 
have  the  keys  taken  out  of  his  hands  and  be  given  a  pitchfork 
instead." 6 

i  lb.  2  "  Werke,"  Erl.  ed.,  182,  p.  337. 

3  On  July  14,  1528,  "  Brief wechsel,"  ed.  Enders,  6,  p.  300  f. 

4  Cp.  "  Werke,"  Weim.  ed.,  1,  p.  354  ;  "  Opp.  lat.  var.,"  1,  p.  388. 
Cp.  vol.  i.,  p.  319. 

5  "  Werke,"  Weim.  ed.,  7,  p.  290  f.  ;  Erl.  ed.,  242,  p.  209,  For  fuller 
quotations  see  vol.  ii.,  p.  58  f. 

6  lb.,  Weim.  ed.,  4,  p.  658. 


In  the  above  instances  the  Catholic  could  find  support  for 
his  conscience  in  the  infallible  authority  of  the  Church.  It 
was  this  authority  which  forbade  him  Luther's  writings  as 
heretical,  and,  in  the  case  of  contrition — which  Luther  also 
brings  forward — it  was  likewise  his  religious  faith,  which, 
consonantly  with  man's  natural  feeling,  demanded  such 
sorrow  for  sin.  In  earlier  days  authority  and  faith  were  the 
reliable  guides  of  conscience  without  which  it  was  impossible 
to  do.  Luther  left  conscience  to  itself  or  referred  it  to  his 
own  words  and  his  reading  of  Scripture,  though  this  again, 
as  he  himself  acknowledged,  was  not  an  absolute  rule  ;  thus 
he  leaves  it  a  prey  to  a  most  unhappy  uncertainty — unless, 
indeed,  it  was  able  to  "  find  assurance  "  in  the  way  he 

Quite  early  in  his  career  he  also  gave  the  following  instruction 
to  those  of  the  clergy  who  were  living  in  concubinage  on  how  to 
form  their  conscience  ;  they  were  "  to  salve  their  conscience  " 
and  take  the  female  to  their  "  wedded  wife,"  even  though  this 
were  against  the  law,  fleshly  or  ghostly.  "  Your  soul's  salva- 
tion is  of  more  account  than  any  tyrannical  laws.  .  .  .  Let  him 
who  has  the  faith  to  take  the  risk  follow  me  boldly."  "  I  will 
not  deceive  him,"  he  adds  apologetically,  but  at  least  he  had  "  the 
power  to  advise  him  regarding  his  sins  and  dangers  "  ;  he  will 
show  them  how  they  may  do  what  they  are  doing,  "but  with  a 
good  conscience."1  For  as  Luther  points  out  in  another  passage, 
even  though  their  discarding  of  their  supposed  obligation  of 
celibacy  had  taken  place  with  a  bad  conscience,  still  the  Bible- 
texts  subsequently  brought  forward,  read  according  to  the  inter- 
pretation of  the  new  Evangelist,  avail  to  heal  their  conscience.2 
At  any  rate,  so  he  tells  the  Teutonic  Knights  when  inviting  them 
to  break  their  vow  of  chastity  :  "on  the  Word  of  God  we  will 
risk  it  and  do  it  in  the  teeth  of  and  contrary  to  all  Councils  and 
Churches  !  Close  eyes  and  ears  and  take  God's  Word  to  heart."3 
Better,  he  cries,  go  on  keeping  two  or  three  prostitutes  than  seek 
of  a  Council  permission  to  marry ! 4 

These  were  matters  for  "  those  to  risk  who  have  the  faith," 
so  we  have  heard  him  say.  In  reality  all  did  depend  on  people's 
faith  ...  in  Luther,  on  their  conviction  that  his  doctrine  and 
his  moral  system  were  right. 

But  what  voice  was  to  decide  in  the  case  of  those  who 
were  wavering  ? 

On  the  profoundest  questions  of  moral  teaching,  it  is,  ac- 

1  lb.,  Erl.  ed.,  21,  p.  324.  2  76.,  28,  p.  224. 

3  "  Werke,"  Weim.  ed.,  12,  p.  237  ;   Erl.  ed.,  29,  p.  25. 

4  lb.,  Erl.  ed.,  29,  p.  23  ;   cp.  above,  vol.  iii.,  p.  262  it 


cording  to  Luther,  the  "inward  judgment  "  that  is  to  decide 
what  "  spirit  "  must  be  followed.  "  For  every  Christian," 
he  writes,  "  is  enlightened  in  heart  and  conscience  by  the 
Holy  Ghost  and  by  God's  Grace  in  such  a  way  as  to  be  able 
to  judge  and  decide  with  the  utmost  certainty  on  all 
doctrines."  It  is  to  this  that  the  Apostle  refers  when  he 
says  :  "  A  spiritual  man  judges  all  things  "  (1  Cor.  iii.  15). 
Beyond  this,  moreover,  Scripture  constitutes  an  "  outward 
judgment  "  whereby  the  Spirit  is  able  to  convince  men,  it 
being  a  "ghostly  light,  much  brighter  than  the  sun."1  It 
is  highly  important  "  to  be  certain  "  of  the  meaning  of  the 
Bible,2  though  here  Luther's  own  interpretation  was, 
needless  to  say,  to  hold  the  field.  The  preachers  instructed 
by  him  were  to  say  :  "I  know  that  the  doctrine  is  right  in 
God's  sight  "  and  "  boast  "  of  the  inward  certainty  they 
shared  with  him.3 

Luther's  rules  for  the  guidance  of  conscience  in  other 
matters  were  quite  similar.  Subjectivism  becomes  a  regular 
system  for  the  guidance  of  conscience.  In  this  sense  it  was 
to  the  person  that  the  final  decision  was  left.  But  whether 
this  isolation  of  man  from  man,  this  snatching  of  the 
individual  from  dutiful  submission  to  an  authority  holding 
God's  place,  was  really  a  gain  to  the  individual,  to  religion 
and  to  society,  or  not  rather  the  reverse,  is  only  to  be 
settled  in  the  light  of  the  history  of  private  judgment 
which  was  the  outcome  of  Luther's  new  principle. 

Of  himself  Luther  repeats  again  and  again,  that  his  knowledge 
and  conscience  alone  sufficed  to  prove  the  truth  of  his  position  ; 4 
that  he  had  won  this  assurance  at  the  cost  of  his  struggles  with 
conscience  and  the  devil.  Ulenberg,  the  old  writer,  speaking  of 
these  utterances  in  his  "  Life  of  Luther,"5  says  that  his  hero 
mastered  his  conscience  when  at  the  Wartburg,  and,  from  that 
time,  believed  more  firmly  than  ever  that  he  had  gained  this 
assurance  by  a  Divine  revelation  ("  ccelesti  quadam  revelatione"), 
for  which  reason  he  had  then  written  to  his  Elector  that  he  had 
received  his  lead  solely  from  heaven.6 

In  matters  of  conscience  wherever  the  troublesome  "  Law  " 

1  "  Werke,"  Weim.  ed.,  18,  p.  653  ;    "  Opp.  lat.  var.,"  7,  p.  176  sq. 

2  lb.,  Erl.  ed.,  58,  pp.  394-398. 

3  "  Werke,"  Weim.  ed.,  17,  1,  p.  232  ;  Erl.  ed.,  39,  p.  111.  Should 
a  preacher  be  unable  thus  to  "  boast,"  he  is  to  "  hold  his  tongue,"  so  we 
read  there. 

4  See,  e.g.,  vol.  iii.,  pp.  110  ff.-158  f. 

5  "  Vita  Lutheri,"  Colonise,  1622,  p.  141. 

6  Above,  vol.  iii.,  p.  111. 


comes  in  we  can  always  trace  the  devil's  influence  ;  we  "  must 
come  to  grips  with  him  and  fight  him,"1  only  the  man  who  has 
been  through  the  mill,  as  he  himself  had,  could  boast  of  having 
any  certainty  :  "  The  devil  is  a  juggler.  Unless  God  helps  us, 
our  work  and  counsel  is  of  no  account ;  whether  we  turn  right 
or  left  he  remains  the  Prince  of  this  world.  Let  him  who  does 
not  know  this  just  try.  I  have  had  some  experience  of  this.  But 
let  no  one  believe  me  until  he  too  has  experienced  it."2 

Not  merely  in  the  case  of  his  life-work  in  general,  but  even  in 
individual  matters  of  importance,  the  inward  struggles  and 
"  agonies  "  through  which  he  had  passed  were  signs  by  which 
to  recognise  that  he  was  in  the  right.  Thus,  for  instance,  referring 
to  his  hostile  action  in  Agricola's  case,  Luther  says  :  "  Oh,  how 
many  pangs  and  agonies  did  I  endure  about  this  business.  I 
almost  died  of  anxiety  before  I  brought  these  propositions  out 
into  the  light  of  day."3  Hence  it  was  plain,  he  argued,  how  far 
he  was  from  the  palpable  arrogance  displayed  by  his  Antinomian 
foe,  and  how  evidently  his  present  conduct  was  willed  by  God. 

The  Help  of  Conscience  at  Critical  Junctures 

It  was  the  part  played  by  subjectivism  in  Luther's  ethics 
that  led  him  in  certain  circumstances  to  extend  suspiciously 
the  rights  of  "  conscience." 

In  the  matter  of  the  bigamy  of  Philip  of  Hesse  he  soothed 
the  Elector  of  Saxony  by  telling  him  he  must  ignore  the 
general  outcry,  since  the  Landgrave  had  acted  "  from  his 
need  of  conscience  "  ;  in  his  "  conscience  "  the  Prince 
regarded  his  "  wedded  concubine  "  as  "  no  mere  prostitute." 
"  By  God's  Grace  I  am  well  able  to  distinguish  between 
what  by  way  of  grace  and  before  God  may  be  permitted  in 
the  case  of  a  troubled  conscience  and  what,  apart  from  such 
need  of  conscience,  is  not  right  before  God  in  outward 
matters."4  In  his  extreme  embarrassment,  consequent  on 
this  matrimonial  tangle,  Luther  deemed  it  necessary  to  make 
so  hair-splitting  a  distinction  between  lawfulness  and  per- 
missibility when  need  of  conscience  required  it.  The 
explanation — that,  in  such  cases,  something  must  be  con- 
ceded "before  God  and  by  way  of  grace" — which  he  offers 
together  with  the  Old-Testament  texts  as  justifying  the 
bigamy,  must  look  like  a  fatal  concession  to  laxity. 

1  "  Werke,"  Weim.  ed.,  23,  p.  69  f.  ;   Erl.  ed.,  30,  p.  19. 

2  lb.,  p.  70  =  20.  3  Lauterbach,  "  Tagebuch,"  p.  22. 

4  On  July  24,  1540,  "  Briefe,"  ed.  De  Wette,  6,  p.  274.  Above, 
vol.  iv.,  p.  13  ff. 


He  also  appealed  to  conscience  in  another  marriage 
question  where  he  made  the  lawfulness  of  bigamy  depend 
entirely  on  the  conscience. 

A  man,  who,  owing  to  his  wife's  illness  was  prevented  from 
matrimonial  intercourse,  wished,  on  the  strength  of  Carlstadt's 
advice,  to  take  a  second  wife.  Luther  thereupon  wrote  to 
Chancellor  Briick,  on  Jan.  27,  1524,  telling  him  the  Prince  should 
reply  as  follows  :  "  The  husband  must  be  sure  and  convinced  in 
his  own  conscience  by  means  of  the  Word  of  God  that  it  is  lawful 
in  his  case.  Therefore  let  him  seek  out  such  men  as  may  convince 
him  by  the  Word  of  God,  whether  Carlstadt  [who  was  then  in  dis- 
grace at  Court],  or  some  other,  matters  not  at  all  to  the  Prince. 
For  if  the  fellow  is  not  sure  of  his  case,  then  the  permission 
of  the  Prince  will  not  make  him  so  ;  nor  is  it  for  the  Prince  to 
decide  on  this  point,  for  it  is  the  priests'  business  to  expound  the 
Word  of  God,  and,  as  Zacharias  says,  from  their  lips  the  Law  of 
the  Lord  must  be  learned.  I,  for  my  part,  admit  I  can  raise 
no  objection  if  a  man  wishes  to  take  several  wives  since  Holy 
Scripture  does  not  forbid  this  ;  but  I  should  not  like  to  see  this 
example  introduced  amongst  Christians.  ...  It  does  not  beseem 
Christians  to  seize  greedily  and  for  their  own  advantage  on  every- 
thing to  which  their  freedom  gives  them  a  right.  .  .  .  No  Chris- 
tian surely  is  so  God-forsaken  as  not  to  be  able  to  practise  con- 
tinence when  his  partner,  owing  to  the  Divine  dispensation, 
proves  unfit  for  matrimony.  Still,  we  may  well  let  things  take 
their  course."1 

On  the  occasion  of  his  own  marriage  with  Bora  we  may  re- 
member how  he  had  declared  with  that  defiance  of  which  he  was 
a  past  master,  that  he  would  take  the  step  the  better  to  with- 
stand the  devil  and  all  his  foes.    (Vol.  ii.,  p.  175  ff.) 

A  curious  echo  of  the  way  in  which  he  could  set  conscience  at 
defiance  is  to  be  met  with  in  his  instructions  to  his  assistant 
Justus  Jonas,  who,  as  soon  as  his  first  wife  was  dead,  cast  about 
for  a  second.  Luther  at  first  was  aghast,  owing  to  Biblical 
scruples,  at  the  scandal  which  second  marriages  on  the  part  of  the 
regents  of  the  Church  would  give  and  entreated  him  at  least  to 
wait  a  while.  When  he  found  it  impossible  to  dissuade  Jonas,  he 
warned  him  of  the  "  malicious  gossip  of  our  foes,"  "  who  are  ever 
eager  to  make  capital  out  of  our  example  "  ;  nevertheless,  he  goes 
on  to  say  that  he  had  nothing  else  to  urge  against  another  union, 
so  long  as  Jonas  "  felt  within  himself  that  spirit  of  defiance 
which  would  enable  him,  after  the  step,  to  ignore  all  the  outcry' 
and  the  hate  of  all  the  devils  and  of  men,  and  not  to  attempt,  nay, 
to  scorn  any  effort  to  stop  the  mouths  of  men,  or  to  crave  their 

1  To  Chancellor  Briick,  "  Brief wechsel,"  4,  p.  282  :  "  Oportere  ipsum 
maritum  sua  propria  conscientia  esse  firmum  ac  certum  per  verbum  Dei, 
sibi  haze  licere.^    Cp.  above,  vol.  iii.,  p.  259  f. 

2  Letter  to  Jonas,  May  4,  1543,  "  Briefe,"  5,  p.  556. 


The  "  spirit  of  defiance  "  which  he  here  requires  as  a 
condition  for  the  step  becomes  elsewhere  a  sort  of  mystical 
inspiration  which  may  justify  an  action  of  doubtful  morality. 

Granted  the  presence  of  this  inspiration  he  regards  as  per- 
missible what  otherwise  would  not  be  so.  In  a  note  sent  to  the 
Elector  of  Saxony  at  the  time  of  the  Diet  of  Augsburg  regarding 
the  question  whether  it  was  allowed  to  offer  armed  resistance  to 
the  Emperor,  we  find  this  idea  expressed  in  remarkable  words. 
Till  then  Luther  had  looked  upon  resistance  as  forbidden.  The 
predicament  of  his  cause,  now  endangered  by  the  warlike  threats 
of  the  Emperor,  led  him  to  think  of  resistance.  He  writes  :  If 
the  Elector  wishes  to  take  up  arms  "  he  must  do  so  under  the 
influence  of  a  singular  spirit  and  faith  ('  vocante  aliquo  singulari 
spiritu  et  fide  ').  Otherwise  he  must  yield  to  superior  force  and 
suffer  death  together  with  the  other  Christians  of  his  faith."1  It 
is  plain  that  there  would  have  been  but  little  difficulty  in  finding 
the  peculiar  mystical  inspiration  required  ;  no  less  plain  is  it, 
that,  once  this  back  door  had  been  opened  "  inspiration  "  would 
soon  usurp  the  place  of  conscience  and  justify  steps,  that,  in  them- 
selves, were  of  a  questionable  character. 

Conscience  in  the  Religious  Question  of  the  Day 

The  new  method  of  dealing  with  conscience  is  more 
closely  connected  with  Luther's  new  method  of  inducing 
faith  than  might  at  first  sight  appear. 

The  individualism  he  proclaimed  in  matters  of  faith  embodied 
the  principle,  that  "  each  one  must,  in  his  own  way,  lay  hold  on 
religious  experience  and  thus  attain  religious  conviction." 2  Luther 
often  says,  in  his  idealistic  way,  that  only  thus  is  it  possible  to 
arrive  at  the  supreme  goal,  viz.  to  feel  one's  faith  within  as  a  kind 
of  inspiration  ;  our  aim  must  ever  be  to  feel  it  "  surely  and  im- 
mutably "  in  our  conscience  and  in  all  the  powers  of  our  soul.3 

1  Text  in  G.  Berbig  ("  Quellen  und  Darstellungen  aus  der  Gesch. 
des  Reformationszeitalters,"  Leipzig,  1908),  p.  277  (cp.  Enders, 
"  Brief wechsel,"  4,  p.  76  f.).  This  statement  completes  what  was  said 
in  vol.  hi.,  p.  55. 

2  Karl  Stange,  "  Die  altesten  ethischen  Disputationen  Luthers," 
1904,  p.  vii. 

3  "  Werke,"  Weim.  ed.,  10,  2,  p.  23  ;  Erl.  ed.,  28,  p.  298. — "  He 
ventured,  relying  on  Christ,"  says  Adolf  Harnack  ("  DG.,"  34,  p.  824), 
"  to  lay  hold  on  God  Himself,  and,  by  this  exercise  of  his  faith,  in 
which  he  saw  God's  work,  his  whole  being  gained  in  independence  and 
firmness,  and  he  acquired  such  confidence  and  joy  as  no  man  in  the 
Middle  Ages  had  ever  known."  Of  Luther's  struggles  of  conscience,  to 
be  examined  more  closely  in  ch.  xxxii.,  Harnack  says  nothing.  On  the 
other  hand,  however,  he  quotes,  on  p.  825,  n.  1,  the  following  words 
of  Luther's  :  "  Such  a  faith  alone  makes  a  Christian  which  risks  all  on 
God  whether  in  life  or  death." 


Everything  must  depend  on  this  experience,  the  more  so  as  to 
him  faith  means  something  very  different  from  what  it  means  to 
Catholics  ;  it  is,  he  says,  "  no  taking  it  all  for  true  "  ;  "  for  that 
would  not  be  Christian  faith  but  more  an  opinion  than  faith  "  ; 
on  the  contrary,  each  one  must  believe  that  "he  is  one  of  those 
on  whom  such  grace  and  mercy  is  bestowed."1  Now,  such  a  faith, 
no  matter  how  profound  and  immutable  the  feeling  be,  cannot 
be  reached  except  at  the  cost  of  a  certain  violence  to  conscience  ; 
such  coercion  is,  in  fact,  essential  owing  to  the  nature  of  this  faith 
in  personal  salvation. 

What,  according  to  Luther,  is  the  general  character  of  faith  ? 
Fear  and  struggles,  so  he  teaches,  are  not  merely  its  usual  ac- 
companiments, but  are  also  the  "  sure  sign  that  the  Word  has 
touched  and  moved  you,  that  it  exercises,  urges  and  compels 
you  "  ;  nay,  Confession  and  Communion  are  really  meant  only 
for  such  troubled  ones,  "  otherwise  there  would  be  no  need  of 
them  " — i.e.  they  would  not  be  necessary  unless  there  existed 
despair  of  conscience  and  anxiety  concerning  faith.  It  was  a 
mistaken  practice,  he  continues,  for  many  to  refrain  from 
receiving  the  Sacrament,  "  preferring  to  wait  until  they  feel  the 
faith  within  their  heart  "  ;  in  this  way  all  desire  to  receive  is 
extinguished  ;  people  should  rather  approach  even  when  they 
feel  not  at  all  their  faith  ;  then  "  you  will  feel  more  and  more 
attracted  towards  it  "2 — though  this  again,  according  to  Luther, 
is  by  no  means  quite  certain. 

The  "  inward  experience  of  faith  "  too  often  becomes  simply 
the  dictate  of  one's  whim.  But  a  whim  and  order  to  oneself  to 
think  this  or  that  does  not  constitute  faith  as  the  word  is  used  in 
revelation,  nor  does  a  command  imposed  on  the  inward  sense  of 
right  and  wrong  amount  to  a  pronouncement  of  conscience. 

Though  Luther  often  held  up  himself  and  his  temptations 
regarding  faith,  as  an  example  which  might  comfort  waverers, 
Protestants  have  nevertheless  praised  him  for  the  supposed 
firmness  of  his  faith  and  for  his  joy  of  conscience.  But  was  not  his 
"  defiant  faith  "  really  identical  with  that  imposition  he  was  wont 
to  practise  on  his  conscience  and  to  dignify  by  the  name  of 
inspiration  ? 

Yet,  in  spite  of  all,  he  never  found  a  secure  foundation.  "  I 
know  what  it  costs  me,  for  I  have  daily  to  struggle  with  myself," 
he  told  his  friends  in  1538.3  "  I  was  scarcely  able  to  bring  my- 
self to  believe,"  he  said  in  a  sermon  of  the  same  year,  "  that  the 
doctrine  of  the  Pope  and  the  Fathers  was  all  wrong."4  His  faith 
was  as  insecurely  fixed,  so  he  quaintly  bewailed  on  another 
occasion,  "  as  the  fur  trimming  on  his  sleeve."5     "  Who  believes 

1  "  Werke,"  Erl.  ed.,  72,  p.  253  f. 

2  "Werke,"  Erl.  ed.,  II2,  p.  248  f. 

3  Lauterbach,  "  Tagebuch  "  :  "in  quotidiana  versor  lucta"  On 
Feb.  26. 

4  "  Luthers  ungedruckte  Predigten,"  ed.  G.  Bjichwald,  Leipzig, 
1885,  3,  p.  245.    Sermon  of  March  16,  1538. 

5  "  Colloq.,"  ed.  Bindseil,  1,  p.  56. 


such  things  ?  "  he  asks,  wildly  implicating  all  people  in  general, 
at  the  conclusion  of  a  note  jotted  down  in  a  Bible  and  alluding 
to  the  hope  of  life  everlasting.1  In  1529  he  repeatedly  describes 
to  his  friends  how  Satan  tempts  him  ("  Satanas  fatigat")  with 
lack  of  faith  and  despair,  how  he  was  sunk  in  unspeakable 
11  bitterness  of  soul,"  and,  how,  for  this  reason  as  he  once  says,  he 
was  scarce  able  "  with  a  trembling  hand  "  to  write  to  them.2 

Calvin,  too,  was  aware  of  the  frequent  terrors  Luther  endured. 
When  Pighius,  the  Catholic  writer,  alleged  Luther's  struggles  of 
conscience  and  temptations  concerning  the  faith  as  disproving 
his  authority,  Calvin  took  good  care  not  to  deny  them.  He 
boldly  replied  that  this  only  redounded  to  Luther's  honour  since 
it  was  the  experience  of  all  devout  people,  and  particularly  of  the 
most  famous  divines.3 

Was  it  possible,  according  to  Luther,  to  be  conscientiously 
opposed  to  his  teaching  on  faith  and  morals  ?  At  least  in 
theory,  he  does  go  so  far  in  certain  statements  as  to  recognise 
the  possibility  of  such  conscientious  scruples.  In  these 
utterances  he  would  even  appear  to  surrender  the  whole 
weight  and  authority  of  his  theological  and  ethical  dis- 
coveries, fundamental  though  they  were  to  his  innovations. 
"  I  have  served  the  Church  zealously  with  what  God  has 
given  me  and  what  I  owe  to  Him.  Whoever  does  not  care 
for  it,  let  him  read  or  listen  to  others.  It  matters  but  little 
should  they  feel  no  need  of  me."4  With  regard  to  public 
worship,  it  is  left  "  to  each  one  to  make  up  his  conscience  as 
to  how  he  shall  use  his  freedom."  "  I  am  not  your  preacher," 
so  he  wrote  to  the  "  Strasburg  Christians,"  who  were 
inclined  to  distrust  his  exclusiveness  ;  "  no  one  is  bound  to 
believe  me  ;  let  each  man  look  to  himself  "  ;5  all  are  to  be 
referred  "from  Luther,"  "to  Christ."6 

Such  statements,  however,  cannot  stand  against  his 
constant  insistence  on  his  Divine  mission  ;   they  are  rather 

1  "  Briefe,"  ed.  De  Wette,  6.  p.  411. 

2  To  Amsdorf,  Oct.  18  (?),  1529,  "  Brief wechsel,"  7,  p.  173. 

3  Cp.  A.  Zahn,  "  Calvins  Urteile  uber  Luther  "  ("  Theol.  Stud,  aus 
Wiirttemberg,"  4,  1883),  p.  187.  Pighius  had  written  against  Luther 
in  1543  on  the  servitude  of  the  will.  Cp.,  ib.,  p.  193,  Calvin's  remark 
against  Gabriel  de  Saconay. 

4  The  words  can  be  better  understood  when  we  bear  in  mind  that 
they  occur  in  the  dedication  to  Duke  Johann  of  Saxony,  of  his  "  Sermon 
von  den  guten  Wercken  "  (March  29,  1520).  "  Werke,"  Weim.  ed.,  6, 
p.  203  ;   Erl.  ed.,  162.  p.  122  f. 

6  "  Werke,"  Erl.  ed.,  53,  p.  273  ("  Brief  wechsel,"  5,  p.  83).  Here 
also  we  must  remember  that  he  is  speaking  to  preachers,  some  of  whom 
differed  from  him.  6  lb.,  53,  p.  276. 


of  psychological  interest  as  showing  how  suddenly  he  passes 
from  one  idea  to  another.  Moreover,  his  statement  last 
mentioned,  often  instanced  by  Protestants  as  testifying  to 
his  breadth  of  mind,  is  nullified  almost  on  the  same  page  by 
the  solemn  assurance,  that,  his  "  Gospel  is  the  true  Gospel  " 
and  that  everything  that  contradicts  it  is  "  heresy,"  for, 
indeed,  as  had  been  foretold  by  the  Apostle  Paul  (1  Cor. 
xi.  19),  "  heresies  "  must  needs  arise.1 

And,  in  point  of  fact,  those  teachers  who  felt  themselves 
bound  in  conscience  to  differ  from  him  and  go  their  own  way 
— for  instance,  the  "  Sacramentarians  "  in  their  interpreta- 
tion of  the  words  of  consecration — were  made  to  smart.  Of 
this  the  example  of  Schwenckfeld  was  a  new  and  striking 

The  contradiction  presented  on  the  one  hand  by  Luther's 
disposition  to  grant  the  most  absolute  freedom  of  conscience, 
and  on  the  other  by  his  rigid  exclusiveness,  is  aptly  described 
by  Friedrich  Paulsen  :  "In  the  region  of  morals  Luther 
leaves  the  decision  to  the  individual  conscience  as  instructed 
by  the  Word  of  God.  To  rely  on  human  authority  in 
questions  of  morals  appeared  to  him  not  much  better  than 
blasphemy.  .  .  .  True  enough,  however,  this  very  Luther, 
at  a  later  date,  attacked  those  whose  conscience  found  in 
God's  Word  doctrines  at  all  different  from  those  taught  at 

Hence,  neither  to  the  heretics  in  his  own  camp  nor  to  the 
adherents  of  the  olden  faith  would  he  allow  the  right  of 
private  judgment,  so  greatly  extolled  both  by  himself  and 
his  followers.  Nothing  had  been  dearer  to  the  people  of 
mediaeval  times,  who  for  all  their  love  of  freedom  were 
faithful  children  of  the  Church,  than  regard  and  esteem  for 
the  rights  of  personality  in  its  own  domain.  Personality, 
denoting  man's  unfettered  and  reasonable  nature  stamped 
with  its  own  peculiar  individuality,  is  assuredly  something 
noble.  The  Catholic  Church,  far  from  setting  limits  to  the 
development  of  personality,  promoted  both  its  real  freedom 
and  the  growth  of  individuality  in  ways  suited  to  man's 
nature  and  his  supernatural  vocation.  Even  the  monastic 
life,  so  odious  to  Luther,  was  anything  but  "  hostile  to  the 
ideal  of  personality."     An  impartial  observer,  prepared  to 

1  Ib.t  p.  272. 

2  "  Gesch.  des  gelehrten  Unterrichtes,"  l2,  1896,  p.  174,  n. 


disregard  fortuitous  abuses,  could  have  seen  even  then,  that 
the  religious  life  strives  after  the  fairest  fruits  of  ethical 
personality,  which  are  fostered  by  the  very  sacrifice  of  self- 
will  :  Obedience  is  but  a  sacrifice  "  made  in  the  interests  of 
personality."1  Mere  wilfulness  and  the  spirit  of  "  defiance," 
ever  ready  to  overstep  the  bounds  set  by  reason  and  grace, 
creates,  not  a  person,  but  a  "  superman,"  whose  existence 
we  could  well  spare  ;  of  such  a  being  Luther's  behaviour 
reminds  us  more  than  once. 

After  all  we  have  said  it  would  be  superfluous  to  deal  in 
detail  with  the  opinion  expressed  above  (p.  66)  by  certain 
Protestant  judges,  viz.  that  Luther  reinstated  conscience, 
which  had  fallen  into  the  toils  of  "  legalism,"  and  set  it  again 
on  its  "  true  basis,"  insisting  on  "  feeling  "  and  on  real 
"morality."  Nor  shall  we  enquire  whether  it  is  seriously 
implied,  that,  before  Luther's  day,  people  were  not  aware 
that  the  mere  "  legality  "  of  a  deed  did  not  suffice  unless 
first  of  all  morality  was  recognised  as  the  true  guide  of 

We  may  repeat  yet  once  again  that  Luther  was  not  the 
first  to  brand  "  outward  holiness-by-works  "  in  the  sphere 
of  morality.2  Berthold  of  Ratisbon,  whose  voice  re-echoed 
through  the  whole  of  Germany,  summing  up  the  teaching  of 
the  mediaeval  moral  theologians,  reprobates  most  sternly 
any  false  confidence  in  outward  deeds.  No  heaping  up  of 
external  works,  no  matter  how  eager,  can,  according  to  him, 
prove  of  any  profit  to  the  soul,  not  even  if  the  sinner,  after 
unheard-of  macerations,  goes  loaded  with  chains  on  a 
pilgrimage  to  Jerusalem  and  there  lays  himself  down  to  die 
within  the  very  sepulchre  of  the  Lord  ;  all  that,  so  he  points 
out  with  an  eloquence  all  his  own,  would  be  thrown  away 
were  there  lacking  the  inward  spirit  of  love  and  contrition  for 
the  sins  committed. 

The  doctrine  on  contrition  of  the  earlier  Catholic  theo- 
logians and  popular  writers,  which  we  have  already  had 
occasion  to  review,  forms  an  excellent  test  when  compared 
with  Luther's  own,  by  which  to  decide  the  question  :  Which 
is  the  outward  and  which  the  inward  morality  ?     Their 

1  F.  Sawicki,  "  Kath.  Kirche  und  sittliche  Personlichkeit,"  Cologne, 
1907,  pp.  86,  88,  and  "  Das  Problem  der  Personlichkeit  und  des  Uber- 
menschen,"  Paderborn,  1909  ;  J.  Mausbach,  "  Die  kath.  Moral  und 
ihre  Gegner,3",  Cologne,  1911.      Part  2,  particularly  pp.  125  ff.,  223  ff. 

a  See  vol.  iv.,  p.  118  ff. 


doctrine  is  based  both  on  Scripture  and  on  the  traditions 
of  antiquity.  Similarly  the  Catholic  teaching  on  moral  self- 
adaptation  to  Christ,  such  as  we  find  it,  for  instance,  in 
St.  Benedict's  Prologue  to  his  world-famous  Rule,  that  text- 
book of  the  mediaeval  ascetics,  in  the  models  and  examples 
of  the  Fathers  and  even  in  the  popular  Catholic  works  of 
piety  so  widely  read  in  Luther's  day,  strikingly  confutes 
the  charge,  that,  by  the  stress  it  laid  on  certain  command- 
ments and  practices,  Catholicism  proved  it  had  lost  sight 
of  "the  existence  of  a  living  personal  morality  "  and  that  it 
fell  to  Luther  once  more  to  recall  to  life  this  ideal.  The 
imitation  of  Christ  in  the  spirit  of  love  was  undoubtedly 
regarded  as  the  highest  aim  of  morality,  and  this  aim 
necessarily  included  "  personal  morality  "  in  its  most  real 
sense,  and  Luther  was  not  in  the  least  necessity  of  inaugurat- 
ing any  new  ideals  of  virtue. 

Luther's  Warfare  with  his  old  friend  Caspar  Schwenckfeld 

Caspar  Schwenckfeld,  a  man  of  noble  birth  hailing  from 
Ossig  near  Liiben  in  Silesia,  after  having  studied  at  Cologne, 
Frankfurt-on-the-Oder  and  perhaps  also  at  Erfurt,  was,  in 
1519,  won  over  by  Luther's  writings  to  the  religious  innova- 
tions. Being  idealistically  inclined,  the  Wittenberg  preach- 
ing against  formalism  in  religion  and  on  the  need  of  returning 
to  a  truly  spiritual  understanding  of  the  Bible  roused  him 
to  enthusiasm.  He  attempted,  with  rather  more  logic  than 
Luther,  to  put  in  practice  the  latter's  admonitions  con- 
cerning the  inward  life  and  therefore  started  a  movement, 
half  pietist,  half  mystic,  for  bringing  together  those  who  had 
been  really  awakened. 

Schwenckfeld  was  a  man  of  broad  mind,  with  considerable 
independence  of  judgment  and  of  a  noble  and  generous 
disposition.  His  good  position  in  the  world  gave  him  what 
many  of  the  other  Lutheran  leaders  lacked,  viz.  a  free  hand. 
His  frank  criticism  did  not  spare  the  faults  in  their  preaching. 
The  sight  of  the  sordid  elements  which  attached  themselves 
to  Luther  strengthened  him  in  his  resolve  to  establish 
communities — first  of  all  in  Silesia — modelled  on  the  very 
lines  roughly  sketched  by  Luther,  which  should  present  a 
picture  of  the  apostolic  age  of  the  Church.  The  Duke  of 
Silesia  and  many  of  the  nobility  were  induced  to  desert 


Catholicism,  and  a  wide  field  was  won  in  Silesia  for  the  new 
ideals  of  Wittenberg. 

In  spite  of  his  high  esteem  for  Luther,  Schwenckfeld 
wrote,  in  1523:  It  is  evident  "that  little  improvement  can 
be  discerned  emerging  from  the  new  teaching,  and  that  those 
who  boast  of  the  Evangel  lead  a  bad  and  scandalous  life.  .  .  . 
This  moves  us  not  a  little,  indeed  pierces  our  heart  when 
we  hear  of  it."1  To  the  Duke  he  dedicated,  in  1524,  a  writing 
entitled  :  "  An  exhortation  regarding  the  misuse  of  sundry 
notable  Articles  of  the  Evangel,  through  the  wrong  under- 
standing of  which  the  common  man  is  led  into  the  freedom 
of  the  flesh  and  into  error."  The  book  forms  a  valuable 
source  of  information  on  the  religious  state  of  the  people  at 
the  time  of  the  rise  of  Lutheranism.  Therein  he  laments, 
with  deep  feeling  and  with  an  able  pen,  that  so  many 
Lutherans  were  being  influenced  by  the  most  worldly  of 
motives,  and  that  a  pernicious  tendency  towards  freedom 
from  social  restrictions  was  rife  amongst  them.2 

Though  Schwenckfeld  was  all  his  life  equally  averse  to  the 
demagogue  Anabaptist  movement  and  to  Zwinglianism 
with  its  rationalistic  tendency,  yet  his  fate  led  him  into 
ways  very  much  like  theirs.  Together  with  his  associate 
Valentine  Krautwald,  a  former  precentor,  he  attacked  the 
Real  Presence  of  Christ  in  the  Sacrament,  giving,  however, 
a  new  interpretation  of  the  words  of  Institution,  different 
from  that  of  Zwingli 'and  (Ecolampadius.  To  the  fanaticism 
of  the  Anabaptists  he  approximated  by  his  opposition  to 
any  organised  Church,  to  the  sacraments  as  means  of  grace, 
and  to  all  that  appeared  to  him  to  deviate  from  the  spirit 
of  the  Apostolic  Church. 

He  besought  Luther  in  a  personal  interview  at  Witten- 
berg, on  Dec.  1,  1525,  to  agree  to  his  doctrine  of  the  Sacra- 
ment, explaining  to  him  at  the  same  time  its  affinity  with 
his  supposedly  profounder  conception  of  the  atonement,  the 
sacraments  and  the  life  of  Christ  as  followed  in  his  com- 
munities ;  he  also  invited  him  in  fiery  words  to  throw  over 
the  popular  churches  in  which  all  the  people  received  the 

1  "  A  study  of  the  earliest  Letters  of  C.  Schwenckfeld,"  Leipzig, 
1907  (vol.  i.  of  the  "Corpus  Schwenckfeldianorum "),  p.  268.  Karl 
Ecke,  "  Schwenckfeld,  Luther  und  der  Gedanke  einer  apostolischen 
Reformation,"  Berlin,  1911,  p.  58. 

2  Cp.  Ecke,  ib.,  p.  59.  Ecke  (p.  viii.)  speaks  of  this  writing  as  a 
"  first-rate  source." 


Supper  and  rather  to  establish  congregations  of  awakened 
Christians.  Luther,  though  in  no  unfriendly  manner,  put 
him  off ;  throughout  the  interview  he  addressed  him  as 
"  Dear  Caspar,"  but  he  flatly  refused  to  give  any  opinion. 
According  to  Schwenckfeld's  own  account  he  even  allowed 
that  his  doctrine  of  the  Sacrament  was  "plausible"  ...  if 
only  it  could  be  proved,  and,  on  parting,  whispered  in  his 
ear  :   "  Keep  quiet  for  a  while."1 

When,  however,  the  Sacramentarian  movement  began  to 
assume  alarming  dimensions,  and  the  Swiss  started  quoting 
Schwenckfeld  in  favour  of  their  view  of  the  Sacrament, 
Luther  was  exasperated  and  began  to  assail  his  Silesian 
fellow-worker.  His  indignation  was  increased  by  certain 
charges  against  the  nobleman  which  reached  him  from 
outside  sources.  He  replied  on  April  14,  1526,  to  certain 
writings  sent  him  by  Schwenckfeld  and  Krautwald  by  an 
unconditional  refusal  to  agree,  though  he  did  so  briefly  and 
with  reserve.2  On  Jan.  4,  of  the  same  year,  referring  to 
Zwingli,  (Ecolampadius  and  Schwenckfeld  in  a  writing  to 
the  "  Christians  of  Reutlingen  "  directed  against  the  Sacra- 
mentarians  he  said :  "  Just  behold  and  comprehend  the  devil 
and  his  coarseness  " ;  in  it  he  had  included  Schwenckfeld, 
though  without  naming  him,  as  a  "  spirit  and  head  "  among 
the  three  who  were  attacking  the  Sacrament.3 

From  that  time  onward  the  Silesian  appeared  to  him  one 
of  the  most  dangerous  of  heretics.  He  no  longer  admitted 
in  his  case  the  rights  of  conscience  and  private  judgment 
which  Luther  claimed  so  loudly  for  himself  and  defended 
in  the  case  of  his  friends,  and  to  which  Schwenckfeld  now 
appealed.  It  was  nothing  to  him  that  on  many  occasions, 
and  even  till  his  death,  Schwenckfeld  expressed  the  highest 
esteem  for  Luther  and  gratitude  for  his  services  in  opening 
up  a  better  way  of  theology. 

"  Dr.  Martin,"  Schwenckfeld  wrote  in  1528,  "  I  would  most 
gladly  have  spared,  if  only  my  conscience  had  allowed  it,  for  I 
know,  praise  be  to  God,  what  I  owe  to  him."4 

1  "  Epistolar  Schwenckfelds,"  2,  2,  1570,  p.  94  ff.  For  full  title  see 
Ecke,  ib.,  p.  11.  Cp.  Th.  Kolde,  "  Zeitschr.  fur  KG.,"  13,  p.  552  ff. 
Cp.  below,  p.  138  f. 

2  "  Werke,"  Erl.  ed.,  53,  p.  383  ("  Brief wechsel,"  5,  p.  337). 

3  "  Werke,"  Weim.  ed.,  19,  p.  123  ;  Erl.  ed.,  53,  p.  362  ("  Brief- 
wechsel,"  5,  p.  302). 

4  "  Epistolar,"  ib.,  p.  645.    Ecke,  p.  87. 


It  was  his  purpose  to  pursue  the  paths  along  which  Luther 
had  at  first  striven  to  reach  a  new  world.  "  A  new  world  is  being 
born  and  the  old  is  dying,"  so  he  wrote  in  1528.1  This  new  world 
he  sought  within  man,  but  with  the  same  mistaken  enthusiasm 
with  which  he  taught  the  new  resurrection  to  life.  The  Divine 
powers  there  at  work  he  fancied  were  the  Holy  Ghost,  the  Word 
of  God  and  the  Blood  of  the  all-powerful  Jesus.  The  latter  he 
wished  to  reinstate  in  person  as  the  sole  ruler  of  the  Church  ;  in 
raising  up  to  life  and  in  supporting  it,  Jesus  was  ministering 
personally.  According  to  him  Christ's  manhood  was  not  the 
same  as  a  creature's ;  he  deified  it  to  such  an  extent  as  to  dis- 
solve it,  thus  laying  himself  open  to  the  charge  of  Eutychianism. 
Regeneration  in  baptism  to  him  seemed  nothing,  compared  with 
Christ's  raising  up  of  the  adult  to  life. 

He  would  have  it  that  he  himself  had  passed,  in  1527,  through 
an  overwhelming  spiritual  experience,  the  chief  crisis  of  his  life, 
when  God,  as  he  says,  made  him  "  partaker  of  the  heavenly 
calling,  received  him  into  His  favour,  and  bestowed  upon  him 
a  good  and  joyful  conscience  and  knowledge."2  On  his  "con- 
science and  knowledge  "  he  insisted  from  that  time  with  blinded 
prejudice,  and  taught  his  followers,  likewise  with  a  joyful  con- 
science to  embrace  the  illumination  from  on  high.  He  adhered 
with  greater  consistency  than  Luther  to  the  thesis  that  everyone 
who  has  been  enlightened  has  the  right  to  judge  of  doctrine  ; 
no  "  outward  office  or  preaching  "  might  stand  in  the  way  of 
such  a  one.  To  each  there  comes  some  upheaval  of  his  earthly 
destiny  ;  it  is  then  that  we  receive  the  infusion  of  the  knowledge 
of  salvation  given  by  the  Spirit,  and  of  faith  in  the  presence  of 
Christ  the  God-man  ;  it  is  a  spiritual  revelation  which  fortifies 
the  conscience  by  the  absolute  certainty  of  salvation  and  guides 
a  man  in  the  freedom  of  the  Spirit  through  all  the  scruples  of 
conscience  he  meets  in  his  moral  life.  His  system  also  comprises 
a  theory  of  practically  complete  immunity  from  sin.3 

No  other  mind  has  given  such  bold  expression  as  Schwenckfeld 
to  the  individualism  or  subjectivism  which  Luther  originally 
taught  ;  no  one  has  ever  attempted  to  calm  consciences  and 
fortify  them  against  the  arbitrariness  of  religious  feeling  in  words 
more  sympathetic  and  moving. 

Carl  Ecke,4  his  most  recent  biographer,  who  is  full  of  admira- 
tion for  him,  says  quite  truly  of  the  close  connection  between 
I  Schwenckfeld  and  the  earlier  Luther,  that  the  chief  leaders  of  the 
incipient  Protestant  Church,  estimable  men  though  some  of  them 
were,  nevertheless  misunderstood  and  repulsed  one  of  the  most 
promising  Christians  of  the  Reformation  age.  When  he  charged 
them  with  want  of  logic  in  their  reforming  efforts  they  regarded 
it  as  the  fanaticism  of  an  ignoramus.  ...  In  Schwenckfeld 
16th-century   Protestantism   nipped   in   the   bud   the   Christian 

1  Ecke  takes  these  words  as  his  motto  on  the  title-page. 

2  "  Epistolar,"   1,  1566,  p.  200.     Cp.  on  the  "  experience,"  Ecke, 
p.  48  ff. 

Ecke,  p.  118  f.  *  See  above,  p.  79,  n.  1, 

V,— Q 


individualism  of  the  early  ages  rediscovered  by  Luther,  in  which 
lay  the  hope  of  a  higher  unity."1 

In  1529,  two  years  after  his  great  interior  experience, 
Schwenckfeld  left  his  home,  and,  on  a  hint  from  the  Duke 
of  Silesia,  severed  his  connection  with  him,  being  unwilling 
to  expose  him  to  the  risk  of  persecution.  Thereafter  he  led 
a  wandering  existence  for  thirty  years  ;  until  his  seventy- 
second  year  he  lived  with  strangers  at  Strasburg,  Esslingen, 
Augsburg,  Spires,  Ulm  and  elsewhere.  After  1540,  when  the 
Lutheran  theologians  at  Schmalkalden  published  an  admo- 
nition against  him,  his  history  was  more  that  of  a  "  fugitive  " 
than  a  mere  "  wanderer."2 

Still,  he  was  untiringly  active  in  furthering  his  cause  by 
means  of  lectures  and  circular  letters,  as  well  as  by  an 
extensive  private  correspondence.  He  scattered  the  seeds 
of  his  peculiar  doctrines  amongst  the  nobility  in  particular 
and  their  dependents  in  country  parts.  Many  people  of 
standing  either  belonged  or  were  well-disposed  to  his  school, 
as  Duke  Christopher  of  Wurtemberg  wrote  in  1 564  ;  accord- 
ing to  him  there  were  many  at  Augsburg  and  Nuremberg, 
in  the  Tyrol,  in  Allgau,  Silesia  and  one  part  of  the  Mark.3 
"  The  well-known  intolerance  of  the  Reformation  and  of  its 
preachers,"  remarks  the  Protestant  historian  of  Schwenck- 
feld, "  could  not  endure  in  their  body  a  man  who  had  his 
own  views  on  the  Sacraments  and  refused  for  conscience 
sake  to  take  part  in  the  practices  of  their  Church.  ...  He 
wandered,  like  a  hunted  deer,  without  hearth  or  home, 
through  the  cities  and  forests  of  South  Germany,  pursued 
by  Luther  and  the  preachers."4  As  late  as  1558  Melanchthon 
incited  the  authorities  against  him,  declaring  that  "  such 
sophistry  as  his  requires  to  be  severely  dealt  with  by  the 

Not  long  after  Schwenckfeld  departed  this  life  at  Ulm  in 
1561.  His  numerous  following  in  Silesia  migrated,  first  to 
Saxony,  then  to  Holland  and  England,  and  finally  to 
Pennsylvania,  where  they  still  exist  to  this  day. 

1  P.  222. 

2  Thus  G.  Kawerau  in  his  sketch  of  Schwenckfeld  in  Moller's  "  KG.," 
33,  p.  475. 

3  lb.,  p.  478.  4  Ecke,  p.  217. 

6  "  Corp.  ref.,"  9,  p.  579  :  "  Heri  Stenckfeldianum  librum  contra  me 
scriptum  accepi.  .  .  .  Talis  sophistica  principum  severitate  compescenda 
est."    To  G.  Buchholzer,  Aug.  5,  1558. 


Luther's  indignation  against  Schwenckfeld  knew  no 
bounds.  In  conversation  he  spoke  of  him  as  Swinesfield,1 
and,  in  his  addresses  and  writings,  still  more  commonly  as 
Stinkfield,  a  name  which  was  also  repeatedly  applied  by  his 
followers  to  the  man  they  so  disliked.2 

In  his  Table-Talk  Luther  refers  to  that  "  rascal  Schwenckfeld," 
who  was  the  instigator  of  numerous  errors  and  deceives  many 
people  with  his  "  honeyed  words." 3  He,  like  the  fanatics,  so  Luther 
complains,  despises  "  the  spoken  word,"  and  yet  God  willed  "  to 
deal  with  and  work  in  us  by  such  means."4 

In  1540  he  told  his  friends  that  Schwenckfeld  was  unworthy 
of  being  refuted  by  him,  no  less  unworthy  than  Sebastian  Frank, 
another  gifted  and  independent  critic  of  Luther  and  Lutheranism.5 

In  1543,  when  Schwenckfeld  attempted  to  make  advances  to 
Luther  and  sent  him  a  tract  together  with  a  letter,  Luther  sent 
down  to  the  messenger  a  card  on  which  he  acknowledged  the 
receipt  of  the  book,  but  declared  that  "  the  senseless  fool,  beset 
as  he  is  by  the  devil,  understands  nothing  and  does  not  even 
know  what  he  is  talking  about."  He  had  better  leave  him, 
Luther,  alone  and  not  worry  him  with  his  "  booklets,  which  the 
devil  himself  discharges  through  him."  In  the  last  lines  he 
invokes  a  sort  of  curse  on  Schwenckfeld,  and  all  "  Sacramen- 
tarians  and  Eutychians  "  of  whom  it  had  been  said  in  the  Bible 
(Jer.  xxiii.  21)  :  "I  did  not  send  prophets,  yet  they  ran  :  I  have 
not  spoken  to  them,  yet  they  prophesy."6 

When  giving  vent  to  his  grudge  against  Schwenckfeld  in  his 
Table-Talk  shortly  after  this,  he  declared  :  "  He  is  a  poor  crea- 
ture, with  neither  talent  nor  an  enlightened  spirit.  .  .  .  He 
bespirts  the  people  with  the  grand  name  of  Christ.  .  .  .  The 
dreamer  has  stolen  a  few  phrases  from  my  book,  '  De  ultimis  verbis 
Davidis  '  [of  1543],  and  with  these  the  poor  wretch  seeks  to  make 
a  great  show."  It  was  on  this  occasion  that  Catherine  Bora  took 
exception  to  a  word  used  by  her  husband,  declaring  that  it  was 
"  too  coarse."7 

In  his  "  Kurtz  Bekentnis  vom  heiligen  Sacrament  "  (1545) 
Luther  again  gives  vigorous  expression  to  his  aversion  to 
the  "  Fanatics  and  foes  of  the  Sacrament,  Carlstadt,  Zwingli, 
(Ecolampadius  and  *  Stinkfield  '  "  ;  they  were  heretics 
44  whom  he  had  warned  sufficiently  "  and  who  were  to  be 
avoided.8     He  had  refused  to  listen  to  or  to  answer  that 

1  Cordatus,  "  Tagebuch,"  p.  337. 

2  Cp.  below,  and  above,  p.  82,  n.  5  ;  also  Ecke,  p.  218. 

3  "  Werke,"  Erl.  ed.,  61,  p.  54.  4  lb.,  57,  p.  51. 
6  Mathesius,  "  Tischreden,"  ed.  Kroker,  p.  167. 

6  "  Briefe,"  ed.  De  Wette,  5,  p.  613.  "  Werke,"  Erl.  ed.,  58,  p.  29. 
Cp.  Mathesius,  "  Tischreden,"  p.  335. 

7  Mathesius,  "  Tischreden,"  ib. 

8  "  Werke,"  Erl.  ed.,  32,  p.  397. 


"  slanderer  Schwenckfeld  "  because  everything  was  wasted 
on  him.  "  This  you  may  well  tell  those  among  whom,  no 
doubt,  Stinkfield  makes  my  name  to  stink.  I  like  being 
abused  by  such  slanderers."  If  by  their  attacks  upon  the 
Sacrament  they  call  the  "  Master  of  the  house  Beelzebub, 
how  should  they  not  abuse  His  household  ?  "l 

7.  Self-Improvement  and  the  Reformation  of  the  Church 

Self-betterment,  by  the  leading  of  a  Christian  life  and, 
particularly,  by  striving  after  Christian  perfection,  had  in 
Catholic  times  been  inculcated  by  many  writers  and  even 
by  first-rank  theologians.  In  this  field  it  was  usual  to 
take  for  granted,  both  in  popular  manuals  and  in  learned 
treatises,  as  the  general  conviction,  that  religion  teaches 
people  to  strive  after  what  is  highest,  whether  in  each 
one's  ordinary  duties  of  daily  life,  or  in  the  ecclesiastical  or 
religious  state.  The  power  of  the  moral  teaching  was  to 
stand  revealed  in  the  struggle  after  the  ideal  thus  set  forth. 

Did  Luther  Found  a  School  of  True  Christian  Life  ? 

Luther,  of  set  purpose,  refused  to  make  any  attempt  to 
found,  in  the  strict  sense  of  the  term,  a  spiritual  school  of 
Christian  life  or  perfection.  He  ever  found  it  a  difficult 
matter  even  to  give  any  methodical  instructions  to  this  end. 

Though  he  dealt  fully  and  attractively  with  many  details 
of  life,  not  only  in  his  sermons  and  commentaries,  but  also  in 
special  writings  which  still  serve  as  inspirations  to  practical 
Christianity,  yet  he  would  never  consent  to  draft  anything 
in  the  shape  of  a  system  for  reaching  virtue,  still  less  for 
attaining  perfection.  On  one  occasion  he  even  deliberately 
refused  his  friend  Bugenhagen's  request  that  he  would 
sketch  out  a  rule  of  Christian  life,  appealing  to  his  well- 
known  thesis  that  "  the  true  Christian  has  no  need  of  rules 
for  his  conduct,  for  the  spirit  of  faith  guides  him  to  do  all 
that  God  requires  and  that  brotherly  love  demands  of  him."' 

It  may  indeed  be  urged  that  his  failure  to  bequeath  to 
posterity  any  regular  guide  to  the  spiritual  life  was  due  to 
lack  of  time,  that  his  active  and  unremitting  struggle  with 

i  "Werke,"  ib.,  32,  p.  411. 

2  1520  or  beginning  of  1521.  "  Brief wechsel,"  3,  p.  37.  Cp.,  how- 
ever, Ender's  remark  on  the  authorship. 


his  opponents  left  him  no  leisure,  and,  in  point  of  fact,  it  is 
quite  true  that  his  controversy  did  deprive  him  of  the 
requisite  freedom  and  peace  of  mind.  It  may  also  be 
allowed  that  no  one  man  can  do  everything  and  that  Luther 
had  not  the  methodical  mind  needed  for  such  a  task,  which, 
in  his  case,  was  rendered  doubly  hard  by  his  revolution  in 
doctrine.  The  main  ground,  however,  is  that  there  were  too 
many  divergent  elements  in  his  moral  teaching  which  it  was 
impossible  to  harmonize  ;  so  much  in  it  was  false  and  awry 
that  no  logical  combination  of  the  whole  was  possible. 
Hence  his  readiness  to  invoke  the  theory,  which  really 
sprung  from  the  very  depths  of  his  ethics,  viz.  that  the  true 
Christian  has  no  need  of  rules  because  everything  he  has  to 
do  is  the  natural  outcome  of  faith. 

In  his  "Sermon  von  den  guten  Wercken "  (1520),  he 
expressed  this  in  a  way  that  could  not  fail  to  find  a  following, 
though  it  could  hardly  be  described  as  in  the  interests  of 
moral  effort.  Each  one  must  take  as  his  first  rule  of  conduct, 
not  on  any  account  to  bind  himself,  but  to  keep  himself  free 
from  all  troublesome  laws.  The  very  title  of  the  tract  in 
question,  so  frequently  reprinted  during  Luther's  lifetime, 
would  have  led  people  to  expect  to  find  in  it  his  practical 
views  on  ethics.  Characteristically  enough,  instead  of 
attempting  to  define  the  exact  nature  and  value  of  moral 
effort,  Luther  penned  what,  in  reality,  was  merely  an 
appendix  to  his  new  doctrine  on  faith.  He  himself,  in  his 
dedication  of  it  to  Duke  Johann  of  Saxony,  admits  this  of 
the  first  and  principal  part  :  "  Here  I  have  striven  to  show 
how  we  must  exercise  and  make  use  of  faith  in  all  our  good 
works  and  consider  it  as  the  chief  est  of  works.  If  God  allows 
me  I  shall  at  some  other  time  deal  with  faith  itself,  how  we 
must  each  day  pray  and  speak  it."1 

As,  however,  no  other  of  Luther's  writings  contains  so 
many  elements  of  moral  teaching  drawn  from  his  theology, 
some  further  remarks  on  it  may  here  be  in  place,  especially 
as  he  himself  set  such  store  on  the  sermon,  that,  while 
engaged  on  it,  referring  evidently  to  the  first  part,  he  wrote 
to  Spalatin,  that,  in  his  opinion  it  "  would  be  the  best  thing 
he  had  yet  published."2  Kostlin  felt  justified  in  saying  : 
"  The  whole  sermon  may  be  termed  the  Reformer's  first 

1  "  Werke,"  Weim.  ed.,  6,  p.  204  ;   Erl.  ed.,  16,2  p.  123. 

2  On  March  25,  1520,  "  Brief wechsel,"  2,  p.  366. 


exposition  and  vindication  of  the  Evangelical  teaching  on 

Starting  from  his  doctrine  that  good  works  are  only  those 
which  God  has  commanded,  and  that  the  highest  is  "  faith,  or 
trust  in  God's  mercy,"2  he  endeavours  to  show,  agreeably  to  his 
usual  idea,  that  from  faith  the  works  proceed,  and  for  this 
reason  he  lingers  over  the  first  four  commandments  of  the 
Decalogue.  He  explains  the  principle  that  faith  knows  no  idle- 
ness. By  this  faith  the  believer  is  inwardly  set  free  from  the  laws 
and  ceremonies  by  which  men  were  driven  to  perform  good 
works.  If  faith  reigned  in  all,  then  of  such  there  would  no  longer 
be  any  need.  The  Christian  must  perform  good  works,  but  he  is 
free  to  perform  works  of  any  kind,  no  man  being  bound  to  one 
or  any  work,  though  he  finds  no  fault  with  those  who  bind  them- 
selves.3 "  Here  we  see,  that,  by  faith,  every  work  and  thing  is 
lawful  to  a  Christian,  though,  because  the  others  do  not  yet 
believe,  he  bears  with  them  and  performs  even  what  he  knows  is 
not  really  binding."4  Faith  issues  in  works  and  all  works  come 
back  to  faith,  to  strengthen  the  assurance  of  salvation.6 

His  explanation  of  the  3rd  Commandment,  where  he  speaks  of 
the  ghostly  Sabbath  of  the  soul  and  of  the  putting  to  death  of  the 
old  man,  seems  like  an  attempt  to  lay  down  some  sort  of  a  system 
of  moral  injunction,  and  incidentally  recalls  the  pseudo-mystic 
phase  through  which  Luther  had  passed  not  so  long  before. 
Here  we  get  just  a  glimpse  of  his  theory  of  human  unfreedom  and 
of  God's  sole  action,  so  far  as  this  was  in  place  in  a  work  intended 
for  the  "  unschooled  laity."6 

In  man,  because  he  is  "  depraved  by  sin,  all  works,  all  words, 
all  thoughts,  in  a  word  his  whole  life,  is  wicked  and  ungodly.  If 
God  is  to  work  and  live  in  him  all  these  vices  and  this  wickedness 
must  be  stamped  out."  This  he  calls  "  the  keeping  of  the  day  of 
rest,  when  our  works  cease  and  God  alone  acts  within  us."  We 
must,  indeed,  "  resist  our  flesh  and  our  sins,"  yet  "  our  lusts  are 
so  many  and  so  diverse,  and  also  at  times  under  the  inspiration 
of  the  Wicked  One  so  clever,  so  subtle  and  so  plausible  that  no  man 
can  of  his  own  keep  himself  in  the  right  way  ;  he  must  let  his 
hands  and  feet  go,  commend  himself  to  the  Divine  guidance, 
trusting  nothing  to  his  reason.  .  .  .  For  there  is  nothing  more 
dangerous  in  us  than  our  reason  and  our  will.  And  this  is  the 
highest  and  the  first  work  of  God  in  us,  and  the  best  thing  we  can 
do,  for  us  to  refrain  from  work,  to  keep  the  reason  and  the  will 
idle,  to  rest  and  commend  ourselves  to  God  in  all  things,  par- 
ticularly when  they  are  running  smoothly  and  well."      "  The 

1  Kostlin-Kawerau,  1,  p.  291. 

2  "  Werke,"  Weim.  ed.,  6,  p.  209  ;   Erl.  ed.,  162,  p.  131. 

3  Cp.  Kostlin-Kawerau,  1,  p.  288. 

4  "  Werke,"  ib.,  p.  214  =  138. 

5  Much  the  same  in  the  Exposition  of  the  Ten  Commandments 
(1528),  "  Werke,"  Weim.  ed.,  16,  p.  485  ;   Erl.  ed.,  36,  p.  100. 

6  "  Werke,"  Weim.  ed.,  6,  p.  203  ;   Erl.  ed.,  162,  p.  122. 


spiritual  Sabbath  is  to  leave  God  alone  to  work  in  us  and  not  to 
do  anything  ourselves  with  any  of  our  powers."1  He  harks  back 
here  to  that  idea  of  self-surrender  to  the  sole  action  of  God,  under 
the  spell  of  which  he  had  formerly  stood  :  "  The  works  of  our 
flesh  must  be  put  to  rest  and  die,  so  that  in  all  things  we  may 
keep  the  ghostly  Sabbath,  leaving  our  works  alone  and  letting 
God  work  in  us.  .  .  .  Then  man  no  longer  guides  himself,  his  lust 
is  stilled  and  his  sadness  too  ;  God  Himself  is  now  his  leader  ; 
nothing  remains  but  godly  desires,  joy  and  peace  together  with 
all  other  works  and  virtues."2 

Though,  according  to  the  peculiar  mysticism  which  speaks  to 
the  "  unschooled  laity  "  out  of  these  pages,  all  works  and  virtues 
spring  up  of  themselves  during  the  Sabbath  rest  of  the  soul,  still 
Luther  finds  it  advisable  to  introduce  a  chapter  on  the  mortifica- 
tion of  the  flesh  by  fasting. 

Fasting  is  to  be  made  use  of  for  the  salvation  of  our  own  soul, 
so  far  but  no  further,  as  or  than  each  one  judges  it  necessary 
for  the  repression  of  the  "  wantonness  of  the  flesh  "  and  for  the 
"putting  to  death  of  our  lust."3  We  are  not  to  "regard  the 
work  in  itself."  Of  corporal  penance  and  mortification,  and 
fasting  in  particular,  he  will  have  it,  that  they  are  to  be  used 
exclusively  to  "  quench  the  evil "  within  us,  but  not  on  account  of 
any  law  of  Pope  or  Church.  Luther  dismisses  in  silence  the  other 
motives  for  penance  recommended  by  the  Church  of  yore,  in  the 
first  place  satisfaction  for  sins  committed  and  the  desire  to  obtain 
graces  by  reinforcing  our  prayers  by  self-imposed  sacrifices. 4 

He  fancies  that  a  few  words  will  suffice  to  guard  against  any 
abuse  of  the  new  ascetical  doctrine  :  "  People  must  beware  lest 
this  freedom  degenerate  into  carelessness  and  indolence  .  .  .  into 
which  some  indeed  tumble  and  then  say  that  there  is  no  need 
or  call  that  we  should  fast  or  practise  mortification."5 

When,  in  the  3rd  Commandment,  he  comes  to  speak  of  the 
practice  of  prayer  one  would  naturally  have  expected  him  to  give 
some  advice  and  directions  concerning  its  different  forms,  viz. 
the  prayer  of  praise,  thanksgiving,  petition  or  penitence.  All  he 
seems  to  know  is,  however,  the  prayer  of  petition,  in  the  case  of 
temporal  trials  and  needs,  and  amidst  spiritual  difficulties.6 

Throughout  the  writing  Luther  is  dominated  by  the  idea  that 
faith  in  Christ  the  Redeemer,  and  in  personal  salvation,  must  at 
all  costs  be  increased.  At  the  same  time  he  is  no  less  certain  that 
the  Papists  neither  prayed  aright,  nor  were  able  to  perforin  any 
good  works  because  they  had  no  faith. 

His  exhortations  to  a  devout  life  (some  of  them  fine 
enough  in  themselves,  for  instance,  what  he  says  on  the 

1  lb.,  pp.  243-245  =  177-179. 

2  lb.,  p.  247  f.  =  182  f.  Cp.  the  similar  statements  in  the  Exposition 
of  the  Ten  Commandments  (1528),  pp.  480  f.,  484  f.  =  93  f.,  96  f. 

3  "  Werke,"  Weim.  ed.,  6,  p.  245  f.  ;  Erl.  ed.,  162,  p.  180. 

4  Cp.  ib.,  p.  246  =  181.  5  P.  247=182. 

8  Elsewhere,  however,  he  treats  of  the  other  forms  of  prayer. 


trusting  prayer  of  the  sinner,  on  the  prayers  of  the  congrega- 
tion which  cry  aloud  to  heaven  and  on  patience  under 
bitter  sufferings),  are,  as  a  rule,  intermingled  to  such  an 
extent  with  polemical  matter,  that,  instead  of  a  school  of 
the  spiritual  life,  we  seem  rather  to  have  before  us  the 
turmoil  of  the  battlefield.1  To  understand  this  we  must 
bear  in  mind  that  he  wrote  the  book  amidst  the  excitement 
into  which  he  was  thrown  by  the  launching  of  the  ban. 

In  the  somewhat  earlier  writing  on  the  Magnificat,  which 
might  equally  well  have  served  as  a  medium  for  the  en- 
forcing of  virtue  and  which  in  some  parts  Luther  did  so  use, 2 
we  also  find  the  same  unbridled  spirit  of  hatred  and  abuse. 
Nor  is  it  lacking  even  in  his  later  works  of  edification.  The 
most  peaceable  ethical  excursus  Luther  contrives  to  dis- 
figure by  his  bitterness,  his  calumnies  and,  not  seldom,  by 
his  venom. 

In  the  Sermon  on  Good  Works  as  soon  as  he  comes  to 
speak  of  prayer  he  has  a  cut  at  the  formalism  of  the  prayer 
beloved  of  the  Papists  ;3  he  then  proceeds  to  abuse  the 
churches  and  convents  for  their  mode  of  life,  their  chanting 
and  babbling,  all  performed  in  "  obstinate  unbelief,"  etc. 
At  least  one-half  of  his  instruction  on  fasting  consists  in 
mockery  of  the  fasting  as  practised  by  the  Papists.  His 
anger,  however,  reaches  its  climax  in  the  4th  Command- 
ment, where  he  completely  forgets  his  subject,  and,  losing 
all  mastery  over  himself,  wildly  storms  against  the  spiritual 
authorities  and  their  disorders.4  The  only  allusion  to  any- 
thing that  by  any  stretch  of  imagination  would  be  termed 
a  work,  is  the  following  :5  The  rascally  behaviour  of  the 
Church's  officers  and  episcopal  or  clerical  functionaries 
"  ought  to  be  repressed  by  the  secular  sword  because  no 
other  means  is  available."  "  The  best  thing,  and  the  only 
remaining  remedy,  would  be,  that  the  King,  Princes,  nobles, 
townships  and  congregations  should  take  the  law  into 
their  hands,  so  that  the  bishops  and  clergy  might  have  good 
cause  to  fear  and  therefore  to  obey."  For  everything  must 
make  room  for  the  Word  of  God.' 

"  Neither  Rome,  nor  heaven,  nor  earth  "  may  decree 
anything  contrary  to  the  first  three  Commandments. 

1  Cp.  p.  237  =  168  f.,  238  f.  =  170  f.,  247  f.  =  182  f. 

2  See  vol.  iv„  p.  501  f.         3  P.  232  =  162. 
4  P.  262  =  202.  6  P.  258  =  197. 


In  dealing  with  these  first  three  Commandments  the 
booklet  releases  the  reader  at  one  stroke  from  all  the  Church's 
laws  hitherto  observed.  "  Hence  I  allow  each  man  to  choose 
the  day,  the  food  and  the  amount  of  his  fasting."1  "  Where 
the  spirit  of  Christ  is,  there  all  is  free,  for  faith  does  not 
allow  itself  to  be  tied  down  to  any  work."2 

"  The  Christian  who  lives  by  faith  has  no  need  of  any 
teacher's  good  works."3  Here  we  can  see  the  chief  reason 
why  Luther's  instructions  on  virtue  and  the  spiritual  life 
are  so  meagre. 

A  Lutheran  Theologian  on  the  Lack  of  any  Teaching 
Concerning  "  Emancipation  from  the  World" 

Even  from  Protestant  theologians  we  hear  the  admission 
that  Luther's  Reformation  failed  to  make  sufficient  allow- 
ance for  the  doctrine  of  piety  ;  he  neglected,  so  they  urge, 
the  question  of  man's  "  emancipation  from  the  world,"  so 
that,  even  to  the  present  day,  Protestantism,  and  traditional 
Lutheran  theology  in  particular,  lacks  any  definite  rule  of 
piety.  According  to  these  critics,  ever  since  Luther's  day 
practical  and  adequate  instructions  had  been  wanting  with 
regard  to  what,  subsequent  to  the  reconciliation  with  the 
Father  brought  about  by  Justification,  still  remains  "to  be 
done  in  the  Father's  house  "  ;  nor  are  we  told  how  the  life 
in  Christ  is  to  be  led,  of  which  nevertheless  the  Apostle 
Paul  speaks  so  eloquently,  though  this  is  in  reality  the 
"main  question  in  Christianity"  and  concerns  the  "vital 
interests  of  the  Church." 

The  remarks  just  quoted  occur  in  an  article  by  the  theologian 
Julius  Kaftan,  Oberkonsistorialrat  at  Berlin,  published  in  the 
"  Zeitschrift  fur  Theologie  und  Kirche  "  in  1908  under  the  title, 
"  Why  does  the  Evangelical  Church  know  no  doctrine  of  the 
Redemption  in  the  narrower  sense,  and  how  may  this  want  be 
remedied  ?  "  We  all  the  more  gladly  append  some  further 
remarks  by  a  theologian,  who,  as  a  rule,  is  by  no  means  favourably 
disposed  to  Catholicism. 

According  to  Kaftan,  Luther  indeed  supplied  "  all  the  elements  " 
for  the  upbuilding  of  a  doctrine  of  "  redemption  from  the  world  "  ; 
he  gave  "  the  stimulus  "  to  the  thought  ;  it  is  "not  as  though 
we  had  no  conception  of  it." 

But  he,  and  the  Reformation  as  a  whole,  failed  to  furnish  any 
"  actual,  detailed  doctrine  "  on  this  subject  because  their  attack 

1  P.  246  =  180.  2  P.  207  =  127.  3  lb. 


was  directed,  and  had  to  be  directed,  against  the  ideal  of  piety 
as  they  found  it  in  the  Church's  monastic  life  ;  they  destroyed 
it,  so  the  author  opines,  because  it  was  only  under  this  distorted 
monkish  shape  that  the  "  Christian  idea  of  redemption  from  the 
world  was  then  met."1  The  Reformation  omitted  to  replace  it 
by  a  better  system.  It  suffers  from  having  fallen  into  the  way 
of  giving  "  too  great  prominence  to  the  doctrine  of  Justification," 
whereas  the  salvation  "  bestowed  by  Christ  is  not  merely  Justi- 
fication and  forgiveness  of  sins,"  as  the  traditional  Lutheran 
theology  seems  on  the  surface  to  assume  even  to-day,  but  rather 
the  "  everlasting  possession  "  to  be  reached  by  a  Christ-like  life  ; 
Justification  is  but  the  road  to  this  possession.  Because  people 
failed  to  keep  this  in  view  the  doctrine  of  the  real  "  work  of  sal- 
vation "  has  from  the  beginning  been  made  far  too  little  of. 

A  further  reason  which  explains  the  neglect  is,  according  to 
Kaftan,  the  following  :  In  Catholicism  it  is  the  Church  which  acts 
as  the  guide  to  piety  and  supplies  all  the  spiritual  aids  required ; 
she  acts  as  intermediary  between  God  and  the  faithful.  But 
"  the  Evangelical  teaching  rejected  the  Church  (in  this  connec- 
tion) as  a  supernatural  agency  for  the  dispensation  of  the  means 
of  salvation.  In  her  place  it  set  the  action  of  the  Spirit  working 
by  means  of  the  Word  of  God."  Since  this  same  teaching  stops 
short  at  the  Incarnation  and  Satisfaction  of  Christ,  it  has  "  no 
room  for  any  doctrine  of  redemption  (from  the  world)  as  a  work 
of  God."2  Pietism,  with  all  its  irregularities,  was  merely  an  out- 
come of  this  deficiency  ;  but  even  the  Pietists  never  succeeded 
in  formulating  such  a  doctrine  of  redemption. 

It  is  to  the  credit  of  the  author  that  he  feels  this  want  deeply 
and  points  out  the  way  in  which  theology  can  remedy  it.3  He 
would  fain  see  introduced  a  system  of  plain  directions,  though 
framed  on  lines  different  from  those  of  the  "  ostensibly  final 
doctrinal  teaching  "  of  the  Formula  of  Concord,4  i.e.  instructions 
to  the  devout  Christian  how  to  manifest  in  his  life  in  the  world 
the  death  and  resurrection  of  Christ  which  St.  Paul  experienced 
in  himself.  Much  too  much  emphasis  had  been  laid  in  Protes- 
tantism on  Luther's  friendliness  to  the  world  and  the  joy  of 
living,  which  he  was  the  first  to  teach  Christians  in  opposition 
to  the  doctrine  of  the  Middle  Ages  ;  yet  the  other  idea,  of  redemp- 
tion from  the  world,  must  nevertheless  retain  a  lasting  signifi- 
cance in  Christianity.  Although,  before  Luther's  day,  the  Church 
had  erroneously  striven  to  attain  to  the  latter  solely  in  the 
monastic  life,  yet  there  is  no  doubt  "  that  the  most  delicate 
blossoms  of  pre-Reformation  piety  sprang  from  this  soil,  and  that 
the  best  forces  in  the  Church  owed  their  origin  to  this  source." 
Is  it  merely  fortuitous,  continues  the  author,  "  that  the  '  Imitation 

1  P.  236.  2  P.  271. 

3  Kaftan  speaks  of  a  theological  want  which  he  had  attempted  to 
supply  in  his  own  "  Dogmatik."  In  reality,  however,  he  has  practice 
equally  in  view,  and,  from  his  statements  we  may  infer  that  the  want 
which  had  been  apparent  from  Luther's  day  was  more  than  a  mere 
defect  in  the  theory.  *  P.  281. 


of  Christ,'  by  Thomas  a  Kempis,  should  be  so  widely  read 
throughout  Christendom,  even  by  Evangelicals  ?  Are  there  not 
many  Evangelical  Christians  who  could  witness  that  this  book 
has  been  a  great  help  to  them  in  a  crisis  of  their  inner  life  ?  But 
whoever  knows  it  knows  what  the  idea  of  redemption  from  the 
world  there  signifies."  All  this  leads  our  author  to  the  conclusion  : 
"  The  history  of  Christianity  and  of  the  Church  undoubtedly 
proves  that  here  [in  the  case  of  the  defect  in  the  Lutheran 
theology  he  is  instancing]  it  is  really  a  question  of  a  motive  power 
and  central  thought  of  our  religion."1  He  points  out  to  the  world 
of  our  day,  "  that  growing  civilisation  culminates  in  disgust 
with  the  world  and  with  civilisation."  "  Then,"  he  continues, 
"  the  soul  again  cries  for  God,  for  the  God  Who  is  above  all  the 
world  and  in  Whom  alone  the  heart  finds  rest.  As  it  ever  was, 
so  is  it  still  to-day."2 

It  is  a  satisfaction  to  hear  this  call  which  must  rejoice  the 
heart  of  every  believer.  The  same,  however,  had  been  heard 
throughout  the  ancient  Church  and  had  met  with  a  happy 
response.  Not  in  the  "  Imitation  "  only,  but  in  a  hundred 
other  writings  of  Catholics,  mystic  and  ascetic,  could  our 
author  have  found  the  ideals  of  Christian  perfection  and  of 
the  rest  in  God  which  comes  from  inward  severance  from  the 
world,  all  expressed  with  the  utmost  clearness  and  the 
warmest  feeling.  Nor  was  Christian  perfection  imprisoned 
within  the  walls  of  the  monasteries  ;  it  also  flourished  in  the 
breezy  atmosphere  of  the  world.  The  Church  taught  the 
universality  of  this  ideal  of  perfect  love  of  God,  of  the 
imitation  of  Christ  and  of  detachment  from  the  world,  and 
she  recommended  it  indiscriminately  to  all  classes,  inviting 
people  to  practise  it  under  all  conditions  of  life  and  ex- 
pending liberally  in  all  directions  her  supernatural  powers 
in  order  to  attain  her  aim.  Among  the  best  of  those  whose 
writings  inaugurated  a  school  of  piety  may  be  classed 
St.  Bernard  and  Gerson,  in  whom  Luther  had  found  light 
and  edification  when  still  a  zealous  monk.  With  him, 
however,  the  case  was  very  different.  Of  the  works  he 
bequeathed  to  posterity  the  Protestant  theologian  referred 
to  above,  says  regretfully  :  They  contain  neither  a  "  doc- 
trine "  nor  a  definite  "  scheme  of  instruction "  on  "  that 
side  of  life  which  faces  God."  "  No  clear,  conclusive 
thoughts  on  this  all-important  matter  are  to  be  found." 

On  the  other  hand  it  must  be  added  that  there  is  no  want 
of  "  clear,  conclusive  thoughts  "to  a  quite  opposite  effect ; 

1  P.  276.  ■  P.  278. 


not  merely  on  enjoyment  of  the  world,  but  on  a  kind  of 
sovereignty  over  it  which  is  scarcely  consistent  with  the 
effort  after  self -betterment. 

The  Means  of  Self-Reform  and  their  Reverse  Side 

Self-denial  as  the  most  effective  means  of  self-education 
in  the  good,  and  self-conquest  in  outward  and  inward  things, 
receive  comparatively  small  attention  from  Luther  ;  rather 
he  is  set  on  delivering  people  from  the  "  anxiety-breeding," 
traditional  prejudice  in  favour  of  spiritual  renunciation, 
obedience  to  the  Church  and  retrenchment  in  view  of  the 
evil.  This  deliverance,  thanks  to  its  alluring  and  attractive 
character,  was  welcomed,  in  spite  of  Luther's  repeated 
warnings  against  any  excess  of  the  spirit  of  the  world.  His 
abandonment  of  the  path  of  perfection  so  strongly  recom- 
mended by  Christ  and  his  depreciation  of  "  peculiar  "  works 
and  "  singular  "  practices  were  more  readily  understood 
and  also  more  engaging  than  his  words  in  favour  of  real 
works  of  faith.  He  set  up  his  own  inward  experiences  of  the 
difficulty  and,  as  he  thought,  utter  futility  of  the  conflict 
with  self,  together  with  his  hostility  to  all  spiritual  efforts 
exceeding  the  common  bounds,  as  the  standard  for  others, 
and,  in  fact,  even  for  the  Church  ;  in  the  Catholic  past,  on 
the  other  hand,  the  faithful  had  been  taught  to  recognise 
the  standard  of  the  Church,  their  teacher  and  guide,  as  the 
rule  by  which  to  judge  of  their  own  experiences. 

Here  to  prove  what  we  have  said,  would  necessitate  the 
repetition  of  what  has  already  been  given  elsewhere. 

Luther's  writings,  particularly  his  letters,  also  contain 
certain  instructions,  which,  fortunately,  have  not  become 
the  common  property  of  Protestants,  but  which  everybody 
must  feel  to  be  absolutely  opposed  to  anything  like  self- 
betterment.  We  need  only  call  to  mind  his  teaching,  that 
temptations  to  despondency  and  despair  are  best  withstood 
by  committing  some  sin  in  defiance  of  the  devil,  or  by 
diverting  the  mind  to  sensual  and  carnal  distractions.1  The 
words  :    "  What  matters  it  if  we  commit  a  fresh  sin  ?  "2 

1  Cp.  the  letter  to  Hier.  Weller,  July  (?),  1530,  "  Brief wechsel,"  8, 
p.  159;  Schlaginhaufen,  " Aufzeichnungen,"  pp.  11,  89,  etc.;  Cordatus, 
"Tagebuch,"  p.  450;  "  Colloq.,"  ed.  Bindseil,  2,  p.  299.  See  our 
vol.  iii.,  p.  175  fT. 

2  See  vol.  ii.,  p.  339  ;  iii.,  p.  180  ff.  ;   above,  p.  9  ff. 


since  through  faith  we  have  forgiveness,  and  the  other 
similar  utterance,  "Be  a  sinner  and  sin  boldly,  but  believe 
more  boldly  still,"  are  characteristic  of  him,  though  he 
would  have  been  unwilling  to  see  them  pressed  or  taken  too 
literally.  By  these  and  other  statements  he  did,  however, 
seriously  endanger  the  ethical  character  of  sin  ;  in  reality  he 
diminished  the  abhorrence  for  sin,  though  no  doubt  he  did 
not  fully  perceive  the  consequences  of  his  act.1 

To  the  man  who  had  become  sensible  of  the  ensnaring 
influence  of  the  world  and  of  its  evil  effects  upon  himself,  or 
who  on  account  of  his  mental  build  felt  himself  endangered 
by  it,  Catholic  moralists  advised  retirement,  recollection, 
self-examination  and  solitude.  Luther  was  certainly  not 
furthering  the  cause  of  perfection  when  he  repeatedly 
insisted,  with  an  emphasis  that  is  barely  credible,  that 
solitude  must  be  avoided  as  the  deadly  foe  of  the  true  life 
of  the  soul,  and  that  what  should  be  sought  was  rather 
company  and  distraction.  Solitude  was  a  temptation  to  sin. 
"  I  too  find,"  so  he  says,  "  that  I  never  fall  into  sin  more 
frequently  than  when  I  am  alone.  .  .  .  Quietude  calls  forth 
the  worst  of  thoughts.  Whatever  our  trouble  be,  it  then 
becomes  much  more  dangerous,"  etc.2  Of  course,  in  the 
case  of  persons  of  gloomy  disposition  Luther  was  quite  right 
in  recommending  company,  but  it  was  just  in  doing  so  that 
he  exceeded  the  bounds  in  his  praise  of  sensual  distractions  ;3 
of  his  own  example,  too,  he  makes  far  too  much.  On  the 
other  hand,  all  the  great  men  in  the  Church  had  sought  to 
find  the  guiding  light  of  self-knowledge  in  solitude  ;  this 
they  regarded  as  a  school  for  the  subjugation  of  unruly 

Not  only  were  self-control  and  self-restraint  something 
strange  to  Luther,4  but  he  often  went  so  far  as  to  adduce 
curious  theoretical  reasonings  of  his  own  to  prove  that  they 
could  have  no  place  in  his  public  life  and  controversies,  and 
why  he  and  his  helpers  were  compelled  to  give  the  reins  to 
anger,  hatred  and  abuse.  Thus  the  work  of  self -improve- 
ment was  renounced  in  yet  another  essential  point. 

1  Above,  vol.  iii.,  p.  185  f. 

2  "  Briefe,"  ed.  De  Wette,  6,  p.  155  ff. 

3  Cp.  our  vol.  iii.,  p.  176  f. 
*  Vol.  iii.,  p.  213  f. 


Then  again  with  regard  to  prayer.  His  exhortations 
thereto  are  numerous  enough  and  he  himself  prayed  fre- 
quently. But  it  is  not  necessary  to  be  an  ascetic  to  see  that 
several  things  are  wanting  in  his  admonitions  to  prayer. 
The  first  is  the  salt  of  contrition  and  compunction.  He  was 
less  alive  to  the  wholesome  underlying  feeling  of  melancholy 
that  characterises  the  soul  which  prays  to  God  in  the 
consciousness  of  having  abused  its  free-will,  than  he  was  to 
the  suggestions  of  self-confidence  and  assurance  of  salvation. 
The  second  thing  wanting  is  the  humility  which  should 
permeate  prayer  even  when  exalted  to  the  highest  limits  of 
trusting  confidence.  If  man,  as  Luther  taught,  is  incapable 
of  any  work,  then  of  course  there  can  be  no  sense  of  shame 
at  not  having  done  more  to  please  God  and  to  merit  greater 
grace  from  Him.  Moreover,  Luther  indirectly  encouraged 
people  to  pray  in  the  bold  consciousness  of  being  justified 
and  to  look  for  the  keeping  of  the  law  as  a  natural  conse- 
quence of  such  "  faith."  Lastly,  and  this  sums  up  every- 
thing, we  miss  the  spirit  of  love  in  his  often  so  strongly 
worded  and  eloquent  exhortations  to  prayer  ;  the  spirit 
which  should  have  led  him  to  resignation  to  God's  designs, 
and  to  commit  his  life's  work  to  the  Will  of  God  with  a 
calm  indifference  as  to  its  eventual  success.1  Hardly  ever 
do  we  find  any  trace  of  that  zeal  for  souls  which  embraces 
the  whole  of  God's  broad  kingdom  even  to  the  heathen*,  in 
short,  the  whole  of  the  Church's  sphere.2  On  the  other 
hand,  however,  he  expressly  exhorts  his  followers  to 
increase  the  ardour  of  their  prayers,  after  his  own  example, 
by  interspersing  them  with  curses  on  all  whose  views  were 

In  place  of  the  pleasing  variety  of  the  old  exercises  of 
prayer — from  the  Office  recited  by  the  clergy  with  its  daily 
commemoration  of  the  Saints  down  to  the  multifarious 
devotions  of  the  people,  to  say  nothing  of  the  great  Sacrifice 
of  the  Altar,  the  very  heart's  pulse  of  the  Church — he 
recommends  as  a  rule  only  the  Our  Father,  the  Creed  and 
the  Psalms — prayers  indeed  rich  beyond  all  others  and 
which  will  ever  hold  the  first  place  among  Christian  devo- 
tions.    But  had  they  not  been  brought  closer  to  the  heart 

1  Cp.  on  Luther's  prayer,  vol.  iii.,  p.  206  f.  ;   iv.,  p.  274  ff. 

2  Vol.  iii.,  p.  213  f. 

3  Vol.  iii.,  p.  207  f.  ;  iv.,  p.  311. 


formerly  in  the  inner  and  outer  life  of  prayer  dealt  with 
in  the  writings  of  the  Catholic  masters  of  the  spiritual  life, 
and  exemplified  in  the  churches  and  monasteries,  and  even 
in  private  houses  and  the  very  streets  ?  But  behind  all  this 
rich  display  Luther  saw  lurking  the  demon  of  "  singular 
works."  The  monk  absorbed  in  contemplation  was,  in 
Luther's  eyes,  an  unhappy  wretch  sitting  "  in  filth  "  up  to 
his  neck.  Thus  he  restricts  himself  to  recommending  the 
old  short  formulas  of  prayer.  In  accordance  with  his 
doctrine  that  faith  alone  avails,  he  desires  that  sin,  and  the 
intention  of  sinning,  should  be  withstood  by  the  use  of  the 
Our  Father  :  "  That  you  diligently  learn  to  say  the  Our 
Father,  the  Creed  and  the  Ten  Commandments."1  "  Grant, 
O  God  (thus  must  you  pray),  that  Thy  Name  be  hallowed  by 
me,  Thy  Kingdom  come  to  me,  and  Thy  Will  be  done  in  me  "; 
in  this  wise  they  would  come  to  scorn  "  devil,  death  and 
hell."2  He  indeed  kept  in  touch  with  the  people  by  means 
of  the  olden  prayers,  but,  even  into  them,  he  knew  how  to 
introduce  his  own  new  views  ;  the  Kingdom  of  God,  which  to 
him  is  forgiveness  of  sins,3  "  must  come  to  us  by  faith,"  and 
the  chief  article  of  the  whole  Creed  with  which  to  defy 
"  death,  devil  and  hell  "  was  the  "  remissio  yeccatorum." 
These  remarks  must  not,  however,  be  understood  as  detract- 
ing from  the  value  of  his  fine,  practical,  and  often  sympa- 
thetic expositions  of  the  Our  Father,  whether  in  his  special 
work  on  it  in  1518  or  in  the  Larger  Catechism.4 

Of  the  numerous  "  man-made  laws  "  which  he  banished 
at  one  stroke  by  denying  the  Church's  authority  there  is  no 
need  to  speak  here.  Without  a  doubt  the  overturning  of  all 
these  barriers  erected  against  human  lusts  and  wilfulness 
was  scarcely  conducive  to  the  progress  of  the  individual. 

Nor  does  the  absence  of  any  higher  standard  of  life  in  his 
own  case5  serve  to  recommend  his  system  of  ethics.  Seeing 
that,  as  has  been  already  pointed  out, 6  he  himself  is  disposed 
to  admit  his  failings,  the  apparent  confidence  with  which, 

1  "  Werke,"  Erl.  ed.,  202,  2,  p.  553.    Cp.  pp.  554,  558. 

2  lb.,  p.  552. 

3  W.  Walther,  "  Die  Sittlichkeit  nach  Luther,"  p.  63. 

4  The  Explanation  of  the  Our  Father  in  1518,  "  Werke,"  Weim.  ed., 
2,  p.  74  ff  ;  9,  p.  122  ff  ;  Erl.  ed.,  21,  p.  156  ff  ;  45,  p.  203  ff.  Note- 
worthy additions  to  it  were  made  by  Luther  in  1519,  ib.,  6,  pp.  8  ff., 
20  ff.  =  45,  p.  208  ff.    Cp.  Kostlin-Kawerau,  1,  pp.  116  f.,  291  f. 

*  Above,  vol.  iii.,  pp.  169  f.,  211  f.  6  Vol.  iii.,  p.  200  ff. 


in  order  to  exalt  his  reform  of  ethics,  he  appeals  to  the 
biblical  verity,  that  the  truth  of  a  doctrine  is  proved  by  its 
moral  fruits,  is  all  the  more  surprising. 

Of  this  confidence  we  have  a  remarkable  example  in  a 
sermon  devoted  to  the  explanation  of  the  1st  Epistle  of 
St.  John.  At  the  same  time  the  exceptional  boldness  of  his 
language  and  the  resolute  testimony  he  bears  in  his  own 
favour  constitute  striking  proof  of  how  the  very  firmness  of 
his  attitude  impressed  his  followers  and  exercised  over  many 
a  seductive  spell.  The  weakness  of  the  Reformer's  ethics 
seems  all  at  once  to  vanish  before  his  mighty  eloquence. 

The  discourse  in  question,  where  at  the  same  time  he  vindicates 
his  own  conduct,  belongs  to  1532.  About  that  time  he  preached 
frequently  at  Wittenberg  on  St.  John's  sublime  words  concerning 
the  love  of  God  and  our  neighbour  (1  Jo.  iv.  16-21).  His  object 
was  to  cleanse  and  better  the  morals  of  Wittenberg,  the  low 
standard  of  which  he  deplores,  that  the  results  of  justification  by 
faith  might  shine  forth  more  brightly.  At  that  very  time  he  was 
treating  with  the  Elector  and  the  Saxon  Estates  in  view  of  a  new 
visitation  of  all  the  parishes  to  be  held  the  next  year,  which  might 
promote  the  good  of  morality.  The  sermons  were  duly  reported 
by  his  pupil  Cruciger,  whose  notes  were  published  at  Wittenberg 
in  1533  under  the  general  title  of  "  A  Sermon  on  Love."1 

Dealing  therein  with  ethical  practice  he  starts  by  proclaiming 
that,  according  to  the  "  pious  Apostle  "  whose  doctrines  he  was 
expounding,  everything  depends  on  Christians  proving  by  their 
fruits  whether  they  really  "walk  in  love."  Of  many,  however, 
who  not  only  declared  themselves  well  acquainted  with  the 
principles  of  faith  and  ethics  but  even  professed  to  be  qualified 
to  teach  them,  it  was  true  that,  "if  we  applied  and  manifested  in 
our  lives  their  ethics  after  their  example,  then  we  should  be  but 
poorly  off."2  Such  men  must,  nevertheless,  be  tested  by  their 
works.  Nor  does  he  exempt  himself  from  this  duty  of  putting 
ethics  to  a  practical  test. 

Nowhere  else  does  he  insist  more  boldly  than  in  these  sermons 
on  proof  by  actual  deeds,  even  in  his  own  case.  According 
to  the  words  of  John,  so  he  says,  a  life  of  love  would  give 
them  "confidence  in  the  Day  of  Judgment"  (iv.  17).  Confi- 
dence, nay,  a  spirit  of  holy  defiance,  even  in  the  presence  of  death 
and  judgment,  must  fill  the  hearts  of  all  who  acted  aright,  owing 
to  the  very  testimony  of  their  fellow-men  to  the  blamelessness 
of  their  lives.  "  We  must  be  able  to  boast  [with  Christ,  '  the 
reconciliation  for  our  sins  ']  not  before  God  alone  but  before  God 
and  all  Christendom,  and  against  the  whole  world,  that  no  one 

1  "  Werke,"  Weim.  ed.,  36,  pp.  416-477  ;  Erl.  ed.,  182,  pp.  304-361. 

2  lb.,  pp.  420  =  308  f. 


can  truthfully  condemn  or  even  accuse  us."  "  We  must  be  able 
to  assure  ourselves  that  we  have  lived  in  such  a  way  that  no  one 
can  take  scandal  at  us  "  ;  we  must  have  this  testimony,  "  that 
we  have  walked  on  earth  in  simplicity  and  godly  piety,  and  that 
no  one  can  charge  us  with  having  been  given  to  '  trickery.'  "  In 
this  wise  had  Paul  countered  false  doctrines  by  boasting,  just  as 
Moses  and  Samuel  had  already  done  under  the  Old  Covenant.1 

Coming  to  his  own  person  the  speaker  thinks  he  can  honestly 
say  the  same  of  himself,  though,  like  the  rest,  he  too  must  confess 
to  being  still  in  need  of  the  article  of  the  forgiveness  of  sins. 
There  were  false  teachers  who  could  not  appeal  so  confidently  to 
the  morality  of  their  lives,  "  proud,  puffed-up  spirits  who  lay 
claim  to  a  great  and  wonderful  holiness,  who  want  to  reform  the 
whole  world  and  to  do  something  singular  in  order  that  all  may 
say  that  they  alone  are  true  Christians.  This  sort  of  thing  lasts 
indeed  for  a  while,  during  which  they  parade  and  strut,  but, 
when  the  hour  of  death  comes,  that  is  the  end  of  all  such  idle 
nonsense."2  He  himself,  with  the  faithful  teachers  and  good 
Christians,  is  in  a  very  different  case  :  "  If  I  must  boast  of  how 
I  have  acted  in  my  position  towards  everyone  then  I  will  say  : 
I  witness  before  you  and  all  the  world,  and  know  that  God  too 
witnesses  on  my  behalf  together  with  all  His  angels,  that  I  have 
not  falsified  God's  Word,  His  Baptism  or  the  Sacrament  but  have 
preached  and  acted  faithfully  as  much  as  was  in  me,  and  suffered 
all  ill  solely  for  God's  and  His  Word's  sake.  Thus  must  all  the 
Saints  boast."3 

He  lays  the  greatest  stress  on  the  unanimous  testimony  which 
the  preacher  must  receive  from  his  fellow-men  and  from  posterity. 
He  must  be  able  to  say,  "  you  shall  be  my  witnesses,"  he  "  must 
be  able  to  call  upon  all  men  to  bear  him  witness  "  ;  they  must 
bear  us  witness  on  the  Last  Day  that  we  have  lived  aright  and 
shown  by  our  deeds  that  we  were  Christians.  If  this  is  the  case, 
if  they  can  point  to  their  practice  of  good  works,  then  the  preach- 
ing of  good  works  can  be  insisted  on  with  all  the  emphasis 
required.4  It  is  natural,  however,  that  towards  the  end  Luther 
lays  greater  stress  on  his  teaching  than  on  his  works. 

On  his  preaching  of  the  value  of  good  works  he  solemnly  assures 
us  :  "  We  can  testify  before  the  whole  world  that  we  have 
preached  much  more  grandly  and  forcefully  on  good  works  than 
even  those  who  calumniate  us."5 

Self-Reform  and  Hatred  of  the  Foe 

In  speaking  of  Luther,  his  staunch  friends  are  wont  to 
boast  of  his  lifelong  struggle  against  the  fetters  of  the  Papacy 
and  of  the  overwhelming  power  of  his  assault  on  the  olden 
Church  ;  this,  so  they  imply,  redounded  to  his  glory  and 
showed  his  moral  superiority. 

1  P.  448  f.  =  335  f.  2  P.  444  =  331.  3  P.  452=339. 

4  P.  449  ft\  =  336  ff.         6  P.  447  =  334. 

V. — H 


In  what  follows  we  shall  therefore  consider  some  of  the 
main  ethical  features  of  this  struggle  of  Luther's  and  of  the 
attitude  he  adopted  in  his  conflict  with  Popery.  His  very- 
defence  of  himself  and  of  the  moral  effects  of  his  preaching, 
which  we  have  just  heard  him  pronounce  subsequent  to  the 
Diet  of  Augsburg,  invites  us  to  consider  in  the  light  of 
ethics  his  public  line  of  action,  as  traced  in  his  writings  of 
that  period.  These  years  represent  a  turning-point  in  his 
life,  and  here,  if  anywhere,  we  should  be  able  to  detect  his 
higher  moral  standard  and  the  power  of  his  new  principles 
to  effect  a  change  first  of  all  in  himself.  In  the  sermon  of 
1532  (above,  p.  96)  he  had  said  :  The  new  Gospel  which 
he  had  "  preached  rightly  and  faithfully  "  made  those  who 
accepted  it  "to  walk  in  simplicity  and  godly  piety  "  accord- 
ing to  the  law  of  love,  and  to  stand  forth  "  blameless  before 
all  the  world."  Could  he  truthfully,  he,  the  champion  of 
this  Gospel,  really  lay  any  claim  to  these  qualities  as  here 
he  seems  to  do,  at  least  indirectly  ? 

His  controversial  tracts  dating  from  that  time  display 
anything  but  "  simplicity  and  godly  piety."  His  hate  was 
without  bounds,  and  his  fury  blazed  forth  in  thunderbolts 
which  slew  all  who  dared  to  attempt  to  bridge  the  chasm 
between  him  and  the  Catholic  Church.  Reproaching  voices, 
about  him  and  within  him,  seemed  to  him  to  come  from  so 
many  devils.  The  Coburg,  where  he  stayed,  was  assuredly 
"  full  of  devils,"  so  he  wrote.1  There,  in  spite  of  his  previous 
attempts  to  jest  and  be  cheerful,2  and  notwithstanding  the 
violent  and  distracting  labours  in  which  he  was  engaged, 
the  devil  had  actually  established  an  "  embassy,"  troubling 
him  with  many  anxieties  and  temptations.3 

The  devil  he  withstood  by  paroxysms  of  that  hate  and  rage 
which  he  had  always  in  store  for  his  enemies.  "  The  Castle 
may  be  crammed  with  devils,  yet  Christ  reigneth  there  in 

1  To  Melanchthon  from  the  Coburg,  July  31,  1530,  "  Brief wechsel," 
8,  p.  157  :    "  ex  arce  dcemonibus  plena." 

2  To  the  same,  April  23,  1530,  ib.,  7,  p.  308  :  "  Hcec  satis  pro  ioco, 
sed  serio  et  necessario  ioco,  qui  mihi  irruentes  cogitationes  repelleret,  si 
tamen  repellet." 

3  To  the  same,  May  12,  1530,  ib.,  7,  p.  333  :  "  Eo  die,  quo  Uteres  turn 
e  Norimberga  venerunt,  habuit  satan  legationem  suam  apud  me,"  etc. 
See  vol.  ii.,  p.  390.  Cp.  to  the  same,  June,  1530  ("  Brief  wechsel,"  8, 
p.  43),  where  he  calls  the  devil  his  torturer,  and  to  the  same,  June  30, 
1530,  ib.,  p.  51,  where  he  speaks  of  his  "  private  struggles  with  the 


the  midst  of  His  foes  !  "x  He  includes  in  the  same  category 
the  Papists,  and  the  Turks  who  then  were  threatening 
Europe  :  Both  are  "  monsters,"  both  have  been  "  let  loose 
by  the  fury  of  the  devil,"  both  represent  a  common  "  woe 
doomed  to  overwhelm  the  world  in  these  last  days  of 
Christendom."2  These  "  stout  jackasses  "  (of  the  Diet  of 
Augsburg),  so  he  cried  from  the  ramparts  of  his  stronghold, 
"  want  to  meddle  in  the  business  of  the  Church.  Let  them 
try  !  "3  "  The  very  frenzy  and  madness  of  our  foes  of  itself 
alone  proves  that  we  are  in  the  right."4  "  Their  blasphemy, 
their  murders,  their  contempt  of  the  Gospel,  and  other 
enormities  against  it,  increase  day  by  day  and  must  bring 
the  Turk  into  the  field  against  us."5  "I  am  a  preacher 
of  Christ,"  so  he  assures  us,  "and  Christ  is  the  truth." — 
But  is  hatred  a  mark  of  a  disciple  of  Christ,  or  of  a  higher 
mission  for  the  reformation  of  doctrine  and  worship  ? 

Elsewhere  Luther  himself  describes  hate  as  a  "  true  image 
of  the  devil ;  in  fact,  it  is  neither  human  nor  diabolical  but 
the  devil  himself  whose  whole  being  is  nothing  but  an  ever- 
lasting burning,"  etc.  "  The  devil  is  always  acting  contrary 
to  love."  "  Such  is  his  way  ;  God  works  nothing  but 
benefits  and  deeds  of  charity,  while  he  on  the  contrary 
performs  nothing  but  works  of  hate."6  On  other  occasions 
in  his  sermons  he  speaks  in  familiar  and  at  the  same  time 
inspiring  words  of  the  beauty  of  Christian  love.  "  Love  is 
a  great  and  rich  treasure,  worth  many  hundred  thousand 
gulden,  or  a  great  kingdom.  Who  is  there  who  would  not 
esteem  it  highly  and  pursue  it  to  the  limit  of  his  power, 
nay,  pour  out  sweat  and  blood  for  it  if  he  only  hoped  or 
knew  how  to  obtain  it !  ...  What  is  sun,  moon,  heavens  or 
all  creation,  all  the  angels,  all  the  saints  compared  with  it  ? 
Love  is  nothing  but  the  one,  unspeakable,  eternal  good  and 
the  highest  treasure,  which  is  God  Himself."7 

1  To  the  same,  July  31,  1530,  ib.,  8,  p.  157. 

2  Cp.  to  the  same,  April  23,  1530,  ib.,  7,  p.  303. 

3  To  the  same,  May  12,  1530,  ib.,  p.  333. 

1  To  the  same,  May  15,  1530,  ib.,  p.  335. 

5  To  the  same,  Aug.  15,  1530,  ib.,  8,  p.  190  :  "  Christus  vivit  et 
regnat.  Fiant  sane  dazmones,  si  ita  volunt,  monachi  vel  nonnce  quoque. 
Nee  forma  melior  eos  decet,  quam  qua  sese  mundo  hactenus  vendiderunt 
adorandos."  The  "monks  or  nuns  "  is  an  allusion  to  the  appearance  of 
the  "spectre-monks"  at  Spires  just  before  the  Diet  of  Augsburg;  see 
vol.  ii.,  p.  389  f. 

6  "  Werke,"  Weim.  ed.,  36,  p.  424  ;   Erl.  ed.,  182,  p.  313  f. 

7  lb.,   p.  423  =  312. — The    so-called    "Sermon    on    Love"    (above, 


But  his  "  Vermanug  an  die  geistlichen  versamlet  auff  dem 
Reichstag  zu  Augsburg  "  (which  he  wrote  from  the  Coburg) 
was  the  fruit,  not  of  love,  but  of  the  most  glowing  hate.1 
In  a  private  letter  he  calls  it  quite  rightly,  not  an  "  exhorta- 
tion "  (Vermanug),  but  "an  invective"  against  the  clergy,2 
and,  in  another  letter,  admits  the  "  violent  spirit  "  in  which 
he  had  written  it ;  when  composing  it  the  abusive  thoughts 
had  rushed  in  on  him  like  an  "  uninvited  band  of  moss- 
troopers."3 But,  that  he  drove  them  back  as  he  declares  he 
did,  is  not  discernible  from  the  work  in  question. 

In  the  booklet  under  discussion  he  several  times  uses  what 
would  seem  to  be  words  of  peace,  and,  in  one  passage,  even 
sketches  a  scheme  for  reunion  ;  but,  as  a  Protestant  critic  of  the 
latter  says,  not  altogether  incorrectly,  the  "idea  was  of  its  very 
nature  impossible  of  execution."4  Indeed,  we  may  say  that 
Luther  himself  could  see  well  enough  that  the  idea  was  a  mere 
deception  ;  the  best  motto  for  the  writing  would  be  :  Enmity 
and  hatred  until  death  ! 

The  Catholic  members  of  the  Diet  are  there  represented  as 
"obstinate  and  stiff-necked,"  and  as  "bloodhounds  raging 
wantonly  "  ;  they  had  hitherto,  but  all  to  no  purpose,  "  tried 
fraud  and  trickery,  force  and  anger,  murder  and  penalties."  To 
the  bishops  he  cries  :  "  May  the  devil  who  drives  them  dog 
their  footsteps,   and  all  our  misfortunes  fall  on  their  head  !  " 

p.  96  f.)  seeks  to  demonstrate  in  the  above  words  the  value  of  love  of 
our  neighbour,  and,  that  this  necessarily  resulted  from  true  faith.  It 
abounds  in  beautiful  sayings  concerning  the  advantage  of  this  virtue. 
Cruciger  had  his  reasons  for  publishing  it,  one  being,  as  he  says  in  the 
dedication,  to  stop  the  mouths  of  those  who  never  cease  to  cry  out 
against  our  people  as  though  we  neither  taught  nor  practised  any- 
thing concerning  love  and  good  works."  (Erl.  ed.,  182,  p.  305.)  Kostlin- 
Kawerau  remarks  (2,  p.  273) :  "  The  fundamental  evil  was  that  the  new 
Church  included  amongst  its  members  so  many  who  were  indifferent 
to  such  preaching  ;  they  had  joined  it  not  merely  without  any  real 
interior  conversion,  but  without  any  spiritual  awakening  or  sympathy, 
purely  by  reason  of  outward  circumstances."  It  must  be  added  that 
the  Sermon,  though  intended  as  a  remedy,  suffers  from  the  defect  of 
being  permeated  through  and  through  with  a  spirit  of  bitter  hate 
against  the  Church  Catholic ;  in  the  very  first  pages  we  find  the  speaker 
complaining,  that  the  devil,  "  who  cannot  bear  the  Word,"  "  attacks 
us  ...  in  order  to  murder  us  by  means  of  his  tyrants  "  ;  "  we  are, 
however,  forced  to  have  the  devil  for  our  guest,"  who  molests  us 
"  with  his  crew."    Weim.  ed.,  36,  p.  417  f. ;   Erl.  ed.,  182,  p.  306  f. 

1  "  Werke,"  Erl.  ed.,  242,  p.  356  ff. 

2  To  Melanchthon,  May  12,  1530,  "  Brief wechsel,"  7,  p.  332. 

3  To  the  same,  April  29,  1530,  ib.,  p.  313  :    "  Oratio  mea  ad  clerum 
procedit ;  crescit  inter  manus  et  materia  et  impetus,  ut  plurimos  Lands- 
lcnechtos  prorsus  vi  repellere  cogar,  qui  insalutati  non  cessant  obstrepere." 
Cp.  Kolde,  "  Luther,"  2,  p.  330. 

4  Kostlin-Kawerau,  2,  p.  199. 


He  puts  them  on  a  level  with  "procurers  and  whoremongers," 
and  trounces  them  as  "  the  biggest  robbers  of  benefices,  bawds 
and  procurers  to  be  found  in  all  the  world."1 — There  had  been 
many  cases  of  infringement  of  the  law  of  celibacy  among  both 
lower  and  higher  clergy  previous  to  Luther's  advent,  while  the 
Wittenberg  spirit  of  freedom  set  free  in  the  German  lands  helped 
considerably  to  increase  the  evil  amongst  the  ranks  of  the 
Catholic  clergy ;  but  to  what  unheard-of  exaggerations,  all 
steeped  in  hate,  did  not  Luther  have  recourse  the  better  to 
inflame  the  people  and  to  defend  the  illicit  marriages  of  those  of 
the  clergy  who  now  were  the  preachers  of  the  new  religion  ?  He 
was  about  "to  sweep  out  of  the  house  the  harlots  and  abducted 
spouses  "  of  the  bishops,  and  not  merely  to  show  up  the  bishops 
as  real  "  lechers  and  brothel-keepers  "  (a  favourite  expression  of 
his),  but  to  drag  them  still  deeper  in  the  mire.  It  was  his  unclean 
fancy,  which  delighted  to  collect  the  worst  to  be  found  in  corrupt 
localities  abroad,  that  led  him  to  say  :  "  And,  moreover,  we  shall 
do  clean  away  with  your  Roman  Sodom,  your  Italian  weddings, 
your  Venetian  and  Turkish  brides,  and  your  Florentine  bride- 
grooms !  "2 

The  pious  founders  of  the  bishoprics  and  monasteries,  he  cries, 
"  never  intended  to  found  bawdy-houses  or  Roman  robber- 
churches,"  nor  yet  to  endow  with  their  money  "  strumpets  and 
rascals,  or  Roman  thieves  and  robbers."  The  bishops,  however, 
are  set  on  "  hiding,  concealing  and  burying  in  silence  the  whole 
pot-broth  of  their  abominations  and  corrupt,  unepiscopal  abuses, 
shame,  vice  and  noxious  perversion  of  Christendom,  and  on  seeing 
them  lauded  and  praised,"  whereas  it  is  high  time  that  they  "  spat 
upon  their  very  selves  "  ;  their  auxiliary  bishops  "  smear  the 
unschooled  donkeys  with  chrism"  (ordain  priests)  and  these  in 
turn  seek  "  to  rise  to  power  "  ;  yet  revolt  against  them  and 
against  all  authority  is  brewing  in  the  distance  ;  if  the  bloody 
deeds  of  MUnzer's  time  were  repeated,  then,  he,  Luther,  would  not 
be  to  blame  ;  "  men's  minds  are  prepared  and  greatly  embittered 
and,  that,  not  without  due  cause  "  ;  if  you  "go  to  bits  "  then 
"  your  blood  be  upon  your  own  head  !  "  Meanwhile  it  is  too  bad 
that  the  bishops  "should  go  about  in  mitres  and  great  pomp,"  as 
though  we  were  "  old  fools  "  ;  but  still  worse  is  it  that  they 
should  make  of  all  this  pomp  "  articles  of  faith  and  a  matter  of 
conscience,  so  that  people  must  commit  sin  if  they  refuse  to 
worship  such  child's  play  ;  surely  this  is  the  devil's  own  work." 
Of  such  hateful  misrepresentations,  put  forward  quite  seriously, 
a  dozen  other  instances  might  be  cited  from  this  writing.  "  But 
that  we  must  look  upon  such  child's  play  as  articles  of  faith, 
and  befool  ourselves  with  bishops'  mitres,  from  that  we  cannot 
get  away,  no  matter  how  much  we  may  storm  or  jeer."3 

The  writing  culminates  in  the  following  outburst  :  "  In 
short  we  and  you  alike  know  that  you  are  living  with- 

1  "  Werke,"  Erl.  ed.,  242,  p.  391  ff. 

2  lb.,  p.  395  f.  3  lb.,  p.  406. 


out  God's  Word,  but  that,  on  our  side,  we  have  God's 

"  If  I  live  I  shall  be  your  bane  ;  if  I  die  I  shall  be  your 
death  !  For  God  Himself  has  driven  me  to  attack  you  ! 
I  must,  as  Hosea  says,  be  to  you  as  a  bear  and  a  lion  in  the 
way  of  Assur.  You  shall  have  no  peace  from  me  until  you 
amend  or  rush  to  your  own  destruction."1 

At  a  later  date,  of  the  saying  "  If  I  live,"  etc.,  Luther 
made  the  Latin  couplet  :  "  Pestis  eram  vivus  moriens  ero 
mors  tua  papa."  In  life,  O  Pope,  I  was  thy  plague,  in  dying 
I  shall  be  thy  death.  He  first  produced  this  verse  at 
Spalatin's  home  at  Altenburg  on  his  return  journey  from 
the  Coburg ;  afterwards  he  frequently  repeated  it,  for 
instance,  at  Schmalkalden  in  1537,  when  he  declared,  that 
he  would  bequeath  his  hatred  of  the  Papacy  as  an  heirloom 
to  his  disciples.2 

As  early  as  1522  he  had  also  made  use  of  the  Bible  passage 
concerning  the  lion  and  the  bear  in  his  "  Wyder  den  falsch 
genantten  geystlichen  Standt  "  with  the  like  assurance  of  the 
Divine  character  of  his  undertaking,  and  in  a  form  which  shows 
how  obsessed  he  was  by  the  spirit  of  hate  :  He  was  sure  of 
his  doctrine  and  by  it  would  judge  even  the  angels  ;  without  it 
no  one  could  be  saved,  for  it  was  God's  and  not  his,  for  which 
reason  his  sentence  too  was  God's  and  not  his  :  "  Let  this  be  my 
conclusion.  If  I  live  you  shall  have  no  peace  from  me,  if  you 
kill  me,  you  shall  have  ten  times  less  peace  ;  and  I  shall  be  to 
you  as  Oseas  says,  xiii.  8,  a  bear  in  the  path  and  a  lion  in  the 
road.  However  you  may  treat  me  you  shall  not  have  your  will, 
until  your  brazen  front  and  iron  neck  are  broken  either  unwillingly 
or  by  grace.  Unless  you  amend,  as  I  would  gladly  wish,  then  we 
may  persist,  you  in  your  anger  and  hostility  and  I  in  paying 
no  heed."3 

On  another  occasion  he  tells  us  how  he  would  gladly  have 
left  Wittenberg  with  Melanchthon  and  the  others  who  were 
going  by  way  of  Nuremberg  to  the  Diet  of  Augsburg,  but 
a  friend  had  said  to  him  :  "  Hold  your  tongue  !  Your 
tongue  is  an  evil  one  !  "4 

1  lb.,  p.  396  f.  2  Cp.  our  vol.  hi.,  p.  435. 

3  "  Werke,"  Weim.  ed.,  10,  2,  p.  107  ;   Erl.  ed.,  28,  p.  144. 

4  To  Eobanus  Hessus,  April  23,  1530,  "  Brief wechsel,"  7,  p.  301. 
Cp.  n.  2  in  Enders,  who  suggests  the  above  translation  of  "  tu  habes 
malam  vocem."  We  read  in  Kostlin-Kawerau,  2,  p.  199 :  "  We  must 
admit,  that,  judging  by  the  tone  of  this  tract  [the  '  Vermanug ']  Luther's 
'  voice  '  would  have  been  out  of  place  at  Augsburg,  as  he  admits  in 
his  letter  to  Eobanus  Hessus." 


After  the  publication  of  the  "  Vermanug  an  die  Geist- 
lichen,"  or  possibly  even  before,  Melanchthon  seems  to  have 
written  to  him,  re-echoing  the  observations  of  startled  and 
anxious  friends,  and  saying  that  the  writing  had  been 
"  variously  "  appreciated,  in  itself  a  significant  remark  ; 
Luther  himself  at  that  time  certainly  dreaded  the  censure 
of  his  adherents.  Still,  he  insists  as  defiantly  as  ever  on  his 
"  invective  "  :  "  Let  not  your  heart  be  troubled,"  he 
admonishes  Melanchthon,  "  My  God  is  a  God  of  fools,  Who 
is  wont  to  laugh  at  the  wise.  Whence  I  trouble  myself  about 
them  not  the  least  bit."1  On  the  contrary,  he  even  came 
near  regarding  his  writing  as  a  special  work  of  God. 

As  we  have  already  pointed  out,  the  defiant  and  violent 
steps  he  took,  only  too  often  became  in  his  eyes  special 
works  of  God.  His  notorious,  boundless  sense  of  his  own 
greatness,  to  which  this  gave  rise,  is  the  first  of  the  phenomena 
which  accompanied  his  hate  ;  these  it  will  now  be  our  duty 
briefly  to  examine  in  order  better  to  appreciate  the  real 
strength  of  his  ethical  principles  in  his  own  case. 

Companion- Phenomena  of  his  Hate 

As  a  matter  of  fact  Luther's  sense  of  his  superiority  was 
so  great  that  the  opponents  he  attacked  had  to  listen  to 
language  such  as  no  mortal  had  ever  before  dreamed  of 
making  use  of  against  the  Church. 

The  Church  is  being  reformed  "  in  my  age  "  in  "  a  Divine 
way,  not  after  human  ways."  "  Were  we  to  fall,  then 
Christ  would  fall  with  us."2 

Whenever  he  meets  with  contradiction,  whenever  he 
hears  even  the  hint  of  a  reproach  or  accusation,  he  at  once 
ranges  himself — as  he  does,  for  instance,  in  the  "  Vermanug  " 
— on  the  side  of  the  persecuted  "  prophets  and  apostles," 
nay,  he  even  likens  himself  to  Christ.3  He  stood  alone, 
without  miracles,  and  devoid  of  holiness,  as  he  himself 
candidly  informed  Henry  VIII.  of  England  ;  nevertheless 
he  pits  himself  against  the  heads  of  both  Church  and 
Empire  assembled  at  the  Diet. 

All  he  could  appeal  to  was  his  degree  of  Doctor  of 
Theology  :  "  Had  I  not  been  a  Doctor,  the  devil  would  have 

1  On  June  5,  1530,  "  Briefwechsel,"  8,  p.  367. 

2  See  vol.  iv.,  p.  338  f.         3  "  Werke,"  Erl.  ed.,  242,  p.  364. 


given  me  much  trouble,  for  it  is  no  small  matter  to  attack 
the  whole  Papacy  and  to  charge  it  "  (with  error).1  In  the 
last  instance,  however,  his  self-confidence  recalls  him  to  the 
proud  consciousness  of  his  entire  certainty.  "  Thus  our 
cause  stands  firm,  because  we  know  how  we  believe  and  how 
we  live."2 

With  these  words  from  his  "  Vermanug  "  he  defies  the 
whole  of  the  present  and  of  the  past,  the  Pope  and  all  his 

He  knows — and  that  suffices — that  what  he  has  and 
proclaims  is  God's  Word  ;  "  and  if  you  have  God's  Word 
you  may  say  :  Now  that  I  have  the  Word  what  need  have 
I  to  ask  what  the  Councils  say  ?  "3  "  Among  all  the 
Councils  I  have  never  found  one  where  the  Holy  Spirit  rules. 
.  .  .  There  will  never  be  no  Council  [sic],  according  to  the 
Holy  Spirit,  where  the  people  have  to  agree.  God  allows  this 
because  He  Himself  wills  to  be  the  Judge  and  suffers  not  men 
to  judge.  Hence  He  commands  every  man  to  know  what  he 
believes."4  Luther  only,  and  those  who  follow  him,  know 
what  they  believe  ;  he  takes  the  place  of  all  the  councils, 
Doctors  of  the  Church,  Popes  and  bishops,  in  short,  of  all 
the  ecclesiastical  sources  of  theology. 

"  The  end  of  the  world  may  now  come,"  he  said,  in  1540, 
"  for  all  that  pertains  to  the  knowledge  of  God  has  now  been 
supplied  "  (by  me).5 

With  this  contempt  for  the  olden  Church  he  combines  a  most 
imperious  exclusiveness  in  his  treatment  even  of  those  who  like 
him  were  opposed  to  the  Pope,  whether  they  were  individuals 
or  formed  schools  of  thought.  They  must  follow  his  lead,  other- 
wise there  awaits  them  the  sentence  he  launched  at  the  Zwing- 
lians  from  the  Coburg  :  "  These  Sacramentarians  are  not  merely 
liars  but  the  very  embodiment  of  lying,  deceit  and  hypocrisy  ; 
this  both  Carlstadt  and  Zwingli  prove  by  word  and  deed." 
Their  books,  he  says,  contain  pestilential  stuff  ;  they  refused  to 
retract  even  when  confuted  by  him,  but  simply  because  they 
stood  in  fear  of  their  own  following  ;  he  would  continue  to  put 
them  to  shame  by  those  words,  which  so  angered  them  :  "  You 
have  a  spirit  different  from  ours."  He  could  not  look  upon  them 
as  brothers  ;  this  was  duly  expressed  in  the  article  in  which  he 
went  so  far  as  to  promise  them  that  love  which  was  due  even  to 

1  Cordatus,  "  Tagebuch,"  p.  363  f. 

2  "  Werke,"  ib.,  p.  361  ;  cp.  p.  396. 

3  "  Werke,"  Weim.  ed.,  24,  p.  313  ;  Erl.  ed.,  33,  p.  331.  Sermons  on 
Genesis,  1527.  4  lb.,  p.  312  f.  =  330  f. 

5  Mathesius,  "  Tischreden,"  p.  108.     From  the  year  1540. 


enemies.  On  his  own  authority  he  curtly  dubs  them  "  heretics," 
and  is  resolved  in  this  way  to  tread  unharmed  with  Christ  through 
Satan's  kingdom  and  all  his  lying  artifices.1  Luther's  aggra- 
vating exclusiveness  went  hand-in-hand  with  his  overweening 

In  consequence  of  this  treatment  the  Swiss,  through  the  agency 
of  Bullinger,  Zwingli's  successor,  complained  to  Bucer,  "  Beware 
of  not  believing  Luther  readily  or  of  not  yielding  to  him  !  He 
is  a  scorpion  ;  no  matter  how  carefully  he  is  handled  he  will 
sting,  even  though  to  begin  with  he  seems  to  caress  your  hand."2 
To  this  Bucer,  who  had  also  ventured  to  differ  from  Luther, 
wrote  in  his  reply  :  "  He  has  flung  another  scathing  book  at 
us.  .  .  .  He  speaks,  and  means  to  speak,  much  more  harshly 
than  heretofore."  "  He  will  not  now  endure  even  the  smallest 
contradiction,  and  I  am  sure  that,  were  I  to  go  any  further,  I 
should  cause  such  a  tragedy  that  all  the  churches  would  once 
more  be  convulsed."3  Another  Protestant  voice  we  hear  ex- 
claiming with  a  fine  irony  :  "  Luther  rages,  thunders  and  lightens 
as  though  he  were  a  Jupiter  and  had  all  the  bolts  of  heaven  at 
his  command  to  launch  against  us.  .  .  .  Has  he  then  become  an 
emperor  of  the  Christian  army  on  the  model  of  the  Pope,  so  as  to 
be  able  to  issue  every  pronouncement  that  his  brain  suggests  ?  " 4 
"  He  confuses  the  two  Natures  in  Christ  and  brings  forward 
foolish,  nay  godless,  statements.  If  we  may  not  condemn  this, 
then  what,  pray,  may  be  condemned  ?  "5 

His  natural  lack  of  charity,  of  which  we  shall  have  later 
on  to  add  many  fresh  and  appalling  examples  to  those 
already  enumerated,  aggravated  his  hatred,  his  sense  of 
his  own  greatness  and  his  exclusiveness.  What  malicious 
hatred  is  there  not  apparent  in  his  advice  that  Zwingli  and 
(Ecolampadius  should  be  condemned,  "  even  though  this  led 
to  violence  being  offered  them."6  It  is  with  reluctance  that 
one  gazes  on  Luther's  abuse  of  the  splendid  gifts  of  mind  and 
heart  with  which  he  had  been  endowed. 

A  recent  Protestant  biographer  of  Carlstadt's  laments  the 
"  frightful  harshness  of  his  (Luther's)  polemics."  "  How  deep 
the  traces  left  by  his  mode  of  controversy  were,  ought  not  to 
be  overlooked,"  so  he  writes.  "  From  that  time  forward  this 
sort  of  thing  took  the  place  of  any  real  discussion  of  differences 
of  opinion  between  members  of  the  Lutheran  camp,  nor  did 
people  even  seem  aware  of  how  far  they  were  thus  drifting  from 
the   kindliness    and    dignity   of   Christian    modes   of   thought."7 

1  To  Jacob  Probst,  June  1,  1530,  "  Briefwechsel,"  7,  p.  353  f. 

2  To  Bucer,  July  12,  1532,  in  "  Anal.  Lutherana,"  ed.  Kolde,  p.  203. 

3  "  Anal.,"  loc.  cit.  4  Leo  Judae,  I.e.,  203. 

6  lb.,  p.  204.  6  See  our  vol.  iv.,  p.  87, 

7  H.  Barge,  "  Carlstadt,"  see  our  vol.  ii.,  p.  154. 


What  is  here  said  of  the  treatment  of  opponents  within  the  camp 
applies  even  more  strongly  to  Luther's  behaviour  towards 

The  following  episode  of  his  habitual  persecution  of  Albert, 
Archbishop  and  Elector  of  Mayence,  illustrates  this  very  well. 

On  June  21,  1535,  the  Archbishop  in  accordance  with  the  then 
law  and  with  the  sentence  duly  pronounced  by  the  judge,  had 
caused  Hans  von  Schonitz,  once  his  trusted  steward,  to  be  executed ; 
the  charge  of  which  he  had  been  proved  guilty  was  embezzlement 
on  a  gigantic  scale.  The  details  of  the  case,  which  was  dealt  with 
rather  hurriedly,  have  not  yet  been  adequately  cleared  up,  but 
even  Protestant  researchers  agree  that  Schonitz  deserved  to  be 
dealt  with  as  a  "public  thief,"1  seeing  that  "in  the  pecuniary 
transactions  which  he  undertook  for  Albert  lie  was  not  unmindful 
of  his  own  advantage  "  ;-  "  there  is  no  doubt  that  he  was  rightly 
accused  of  all  manner  of  peculation  and  cheating."3  Luther, 
however,  furiously  entered  the  lists  on  behalf  of  the  executed 
man  and  against  the  detested  Archbishop  who,  in  spite  of  his 
private  faults,  remained  faithful  to  the  Church  and  was  a  hin- 
drance to  the  spread  of  Lutheranism  in  Germany.  Luther  im- 
plicitly believed  all  that  was  told  him,  of  Hans's  innocence  and 
of  Albert's  supposed  abominable  motives,  by  Schonitz's  brother 
and  his  friend  Ludwig  Rabe — who  himself  was  implicated  in  the 
matter — and  both  of  whom  came  to  Wittenberg.  "  Both  natur- 
ally related  the  case  from  their  own  point  of  view."4  Luther 
sent  two  letters  to  the  Cardinal,  one  more  violent  than  the  other.5 
The  second  would  seem  to  have  been  intended  for  publication 
and  was  sent  to  the  press,  though  at  present  no  copy  of  it  can  be 
discovered.  In  it  in  words  of  frightful  violence  he  lays  at  the 
door  of  the  Prince  of  the  Church  the  blood  of  the  man  done  to 
death.  The  Archbishop  was  a  "  thorough-paced  Epicurean 
who  does  not  believe  that  Abel  lives  in  God  and  that  his  blood 
still  cries  more  loudly  than  Cain,  his  brother's  murderer,  fancies." 
He,  Luther,  like  another  Elias,  must  call  down  woes  "  upon 
Achab  and  Isabel."  He  had  indeed  heard  of  many  evil  deeds 
done  by  Cardinals,  "  but  I  had  not  taken  your  Cardinalitial 
Holiness  for  such  an  insolent,  wicked  dragon.  .  .  .  Your  Elec- 
toral Highness  may  if  he  likes  commit  a  nuisance  in  the  Em- 
peror's Court  of  Justice,  infringe  the  freedom  of  the  city  of  Halle, 
usurp  the  sword  of  Justice  belonging  to  Saxony,  and,  over  and 
above  this,  look  on  the  world  and  on  all  reason  as  rags  fit  only 
for  the  closet  " — such  is  a  fair  sample  of  the  language — and, 
moreover,  treat  everything  in  a  Popish,   Roman,   Cardinalitial 

1  F.  Hiilsse,  "  Card.  Albrecht  und  Hans  Schenitz,"  "  Magdeburger 
Geschichtsblatter,"  1889,  p.  82;  cp.  Enders,  "  Briefwechsel  Luthers," 
10,  p.  182,  who  remarks  of  F.  W.  E.  Roth's  review  in  the  "  Hist.-pol. 
Bl.,"  118,  1896,  p.  160  f.  :  "  The  author  does  not  seem  to  be  acquainted 
with  Hiilsse's  work  and  therefore  condemns  Albert." 

2  Enders,  ib.,  p.  181.  3  Kostlin-Kawerau,  2,  p.  419. 

4  Enders,  ib. 

5  On  July  31,  1535,  and  Jan.-Feb.,  1536,  ' -  Werke,"  Erl.  ed.,  55, 
pp.  98  and  125  ("Briefwechsel,"  10,  pp.  180  and  296). 


way,  but,  please  God,  our  Lord  God  will  by  our  prayers  one  day 
compel  your  Electoral  Highness  to  sweep  out  all  the  filth  your- 

In  the  first  letter  he  had  threatened  fiercely  the  hated  Cardinal 
with  publishing  what  he  knew  (or  possibly  only  feigned  to  know) 
of  his  faults  ;  he  would  not  "  advise  him  to  stir  up  the  filth  any 
further  "  ;  here  in  the  second  letter  he  charges  him  in  a  general 
way  with  robbery,  petty  theft  and  fraud  in  the  matter  of  Church 
property,  also  with  having  cheated  a  woman  of  the  town  whom  he 
used  to  keep  ;  he  deserved  to  be  "  hanged  on  a  gallows  three 
times  as  high  as  the  Giebichstein,"  where  Schonitz  had  been 
executed.  Incidentally  he  promises  him  a  new  work  that  shall 
reveal  all  his  doings.  The  threatened  work  was,  however,  never 
published,  Albert's  family,  the  Brandenburgs,  having  raised 
objections  at  the  Electoral  Court  of  Saxony.  Albert,  however, 
offered  quite  frankly  to  submit  the  Schonitz  case  and  the 
grievances  raised  by  his  relatives  to  the  judgment  of  George  of 
Anhalt,  one  of  the  princes  who  had  gone  over  to  Lutheranism, 
who  was  perfectly  at  liberty  to  take  the  advice  of  Jonas,  nay, 
even  of  Luther  himself.  "  In  this  we  may  surely  see  a  proof  that 
he  was  not  conscious  of  being  in  the  least  blameworthy."  xt  At 
any  rate  he  seems  to  have  been  quite  willing  to  lay  his  case  even 
before  his  most  bitter  foe.2 

Such  was  Luther's  irritability  and  quickness  of  temper, 
even  in  private  concerns,  that,  at  times,  even  in  his  letters, 
he  would  pour  forth  the  most  incredible  threats. 

On  one  occasion,  in  1542,  when  a  messenger  sent  by  Justus 
Jonas  happened  to  offend  him,  he  at  once  wrote  an  "  angry 
letter  "  to  Jonas  and  on  the  next  day  followed  it  up  with  another 
in  which  he  says,  that  his  anger  has  not  yet  been  put  to  rest ; 
never  is  Jonas  to  send  such  people  into  his  house  again  or  else 
he  will  order  them  to  be  gagged  and  put  under  restraint. 
"  Remember  this,  for  I  have  said  it.  This  man  may  scold 
and  do  the  grand  elsewhere,  but  not  in  Luther's  house,  unless 
indeed  he  wants  to  have  his  tongue  torn  out.  Are  we  going  to 
allow  such  caitiffs  as  these  to  play  the  emperor  ?  "3 — He  had, 
as  we  already  know,  a  sad  experience  with  a  certain  girl  named 
Rosina,  whom  he  had  engaged  as  a  servant,  but  who  turned  out 
to  be  a  person  of  loose  morals  and  brought  his  house  into  dis- 
repute. "  She  shall  never  again  have  the  chance  of  deceiving 
anyone  so  long  as  there  is  water  enough  in  the  Elbe,"  so  he  writes 
of  her  to  a  judge.  In  letters  to  other  persons  he  accuses  her 
of  "villainy  and  fornication";  she  had  "shamed  all  the 
inmates  of  his  house  with  the  [assumed]  name  of  Truchsess  "  ; 
he  could  only  think  that  she  had  been  "  foisted  on  him  by  the 

1  Kostlin-Kawerau,  2,  p.  420. 

2  Enders,  "  Briefwechsel,"  10,  p.  297  ;    Hulsse,  p.  61. 

3  On  March  10,  1542,  "  Briefe,"  ed.  De  Wette,  5,  p.  442. 


Papists  as  an  arch-prostitute — the  god-forsaken  minx  and  lying 
bag  of  trouble,  who  has  damaged  my  household  from  garret  to 
cellar  .  .  .  accursed  harridan  and  perjured,  thieving  drab  that 
she  is  !  "    Away  with  her  "  for  the  honour  of  the  Evangel."1 

Even  in  younger  days  he  had  been  too  much  accustomed  to 
give  the  reins  to  his  excitement,  as  his  two  indignant  letters  (his 
own  description  of  them)  to  his  brother  monks  at  Erfurt  show.2 
Even  his  upbringing  of  his  own  children,  highly  lauded  as  it  has 
been,  suffered  from  this  same  lack  of  self-control.  "  The  mere 
disobedience  of  a  boy  would  stir  him  to  his  very  depths.  For 
instance,  he  admits  of  a  nephew  he  had  living  with  him — a  son 
of  his  brother  James — that  once  'he  angered  me  so  greatly  as 
almost  to  be  the  death  of  me,  so  that  for  a  while  I  lost  the  use  of 
my  bodily  powers.'"3 — So  exasperated  was  he  with  the  lawyers 
who  treacherously  deceived  the  people  that  he  went  so  far  as  to 
demand  that  their  tongues  should  be  torn  out.  At  times  he 
confesses  his  hot  temper,  owning  and  acknowledging  that  it  was 
"  sinful  "  ;  to  such  fits  of  passion  he  was  still  subject,  but,  as  a 
rule,  his  anger  was  at  least  both  right  and  called  for,  for  he  could 
not  avoid  being  angry  where  it  was  "  a  question  of  the  soul  and 
of  hell."  Anger,  he  also  says,  refreshed  his  inner  man,  sharpened 
his  wits  and  chased  away  his  temptations  ;  he  had  to  be  angry  in 
order  to  write,  preach  or  pray  well.4 

Repeatedly  he  seemed  on  the  point  of  quitting  Wittenberg  for 
ever  in  revenge  for  all  the  neglect  he  met  with  there  ;  "I  can  no 
longer  contain  my  anger  and  disappointment."5  It  was  to  this 
depression  of  spirits  that  he  was  referring  when  he  said,  that, 
often,  in  his  indignation,  he  had  "  flung  down  the  keys  on  Our 
Lord  God's  threshold."6  He  sees  his  inability  to  change  his 
surroundings  and  how  Popery  refuses  to  be  overthrown  ;  yet,  as 
he  told  us,  he  is  determined  to  "  rain  abuse  and  curses  on  the 
miscreants  [the  Papists]  till  he  is  carried  to  the  grave,"  and  to 
provide  the  "thunder  and  lightning  for  the  funeral"  of  the  foe.7 

A  gloomy,  uncanny  passion  often  glows  in  his  words  and 
serves  to  fire  the  fanatism  of  the  misguided  masses. 

"  Lo  and  behold  how  my  blood  boils  and  how  I  long  to 
see  the  Papacy  punished  !  "  And  what  was  the  punishment 
he  looked  for  ?    Just  before  he  had  said  that  the  Pope,  his 

1  To  Johann  Goritz,  judge  at  Leipzig,  Jan.  29,  1544,  ib.,  p.  625. 
Cp.  for  the  account  of  Rosina,  vol.  hi.,  pp.  217  f.,  280  f. 

2  Vol.  i.,  p.  59.  "  Stupidce  litterce  here  perhaps  means  "  indig- 
nant "  rather  than  "  amazed  "  letters. 

3  Kostlin-Kawerau,  2,  p.  483. 

4  Mathesius,  "  Aufzeichn."  (Loesche),  p.  200.  Cp.  above  vol.  hi., 
p.  437  f. 

5  To  Catherine,  end  of  July,  1545,  "  Briefe,"  ed.  De  Wette,  5, 
p.  753. 

6  Lauterbach,  "  Tagebuch,"  p.  127.    Cp.  above  vol.  iv.,  p.  276. 

7  "  Werke,"  Weim.  ed.,  30,  3,  p.  470  ;  Erl.  ed.,  252,  p.  127.  "  Widder 
den  Meuchler  zu  Dresen,"  1531. 


Cardinals  and  all  his  court  should  have  "  the  skins  of  their 
bodies  drawn  off  over  their  heads  ;  the  hides  might  then  be 
flung  into  the  healing  bath  [the  sea]  at  Ostia,  or  into  the 
fire,"  unless  indeed  they  found  means  to  pay  back  all  the 
alien  property  that  the  Pope,  the  "  Robber  of  the  Churches, 
had  stolen  only  to  waste,  lose  and  squander  it,  and  to  spend 
it  on  whores  and  their  ilk."  Yet  even  this  punishment  fell 
short  of  the  crime,  for  "  my  spirit  knows  well  that  no  tem- 
poral penalty  can  avail  to  make  amends  even  for  one  Bull 
or  Decree."1 

Side  by  side  with  language  so  astonishing  we  must  put  other 
sayings  which  paint  his  habitual  frame  of  mind  in  a  light  any- 
thing but  favourable  :  "  It  is  God's  Word  !  Let  what  cannot 
stand  fall  ...  no  matter  what!"2  "The  Word  is  true,  or 
everything  crumbles  into  ruin  !  "3  "  Even  if  you  will  not  follow  " 
— such  were  his  words  to  Staupitz  as  early  as  1521,  "at  least 
suffer  me  to  go  on  and  be  carried  away  ['  ire  et  rapi  ']."  "I  have 
put  on  my  horns  against  the  Roman  Antichrists  "  ;4  in  these 
words  Luther  compares  himself  to  a  raving  bull. 

This  frame  of  mind  tended  to  promote  his  natural  tendency  to 
violence,  hitherto  repressed.  His  proposal  to  flay  all  the  members 
of  the  Roman  Curia  was  not  by  any  means  his  first  hint  at  deeds 
of  blood  ;  such  allusions  occur  in  other  shapes  in  earlier  discourses, 
particularly  in  his  predictions  of  the  judgments  to  come.  The 
Princes,  nobility  and  towns,  so  he  declared,  must  put  their  foot 
down  and  prevent  the  shameful  abuses  of  Rome  :  "If  we  mean 
to  fight  against  the  Turks  let  us  begin  at  home  where  they  are 
worst  ;  if  we  do  right  in  hanging  thieves  and  beheading  robbers, 
why  then  do  we  let  Roman  avarice  go  scot  free,  when  all  the 
time  it  is  the  biggest  thief  and  robber  there  ever  has  been  or  will 
ever  be  upon  the  earth."  Whoever  comes  from  Rome  bringing 
in  his  pocket  a  collation  to  a  benefice  ought  to  be  warned  either 
"  to  desist,  or  else  to  jump  into  the  Rhine  or  the  nearest  pond, 
and  give  the  Roman  Brief — letter,  seals  and  all,  a  cold  bath."5 
Not  without  a  shudder  can  one  read  the  description  in  his 
"  Bapstum  vom  Teuffel  gestifft,"  written  in  his  last  days,  of  the 
kinds  of  death  best  suited  to  the  Pope  and  his  Curia,  of  which  the 
flaying  and  the  "  bath  "  at  Ostia  is  only  one  example.  (Cp.  below, 
xxx.,  2.)  True  enough  he  is  careful  to  point  out  that  such  a 
death  will  be  theirs  only  should  they  refuse  to  amend  their  ways 
and  accept  the  Lutheran  Evangel  ! 

Ten  years  previously,  in  1535,  he  had  written  to  Melanchthon, 

1  lb.,  26 2,  p.  242,  "  Das  Bapstum  vom  Teuffel  gestifft,"  1545. 

2  lb.,  Weim.  ed.,  33,  p.  605  ;   Erl.  ed.,  48,  p.  342.    Expos,  of  John 
vi.-viii.,  1530-1532.  3  lb.,  p.  341. 

4  Feb.  7,  1521,  "  Brief wechsel,"  3,  p.  83  f. 

5  "  Werke,"  Weim.  ed.,  6,  pp.  427,  428  f.  ;  Erl.  ed.,  21,  pp.  305  and 
307.     "An  den  christl.  Adel,"  1520.     Cp.  above  p.  88  f. 


who  shrank  from  acts  of  violence  with  what  appeared  to  Luther 
too  great  timidity  :  "  Oh,  that  our  most  venerable  Cardinals, 
Popes  and  Roman  Legates  had  more  Kings  of  England  to  put 
them  to  death  !  "x  These  words  he  penned  soon  after  Henry  VIII 
of  England  had  sacrificed  the  lives  of  John  Fisher,  bishop  of 
Rochester,  and  his  Chancellor,  Sir  Thomas  More,  to  his  sensual 
passions  and  his  thirst  for  blood.  Luther  adds,  of  the  Pope  and 
the  Curia,  with  the  object  of  vindicating  the  sentence  of  death  he 
had  passed  on  them,  "  They  are  traitors,  thieves,  robbers  and 
regular  devils.  .  .  .  They  are  out  and  out  miscreants  to  the  very 
bottom  of  their  hearts.  May  God  only  grant  you  too  to  see  this." 2 
Fury  had  stood  by  the  cradle  of  Luther's  undertaking  and 
under  its  gloomy  auspices  his  cause  continued  to  progress. 
Without  repeating  what  has  already  been  said,  it  may  suffice  to 
point  out  how  his  excitement  frequently  led  him  to  take  even 
momentous  steps  which  he  would  otherwise  have  boggled  at. 
Only  too  frankly  he  admitted  to  his  friend  Lang  in  1519  and  soon 
after  to  Spalatin,  that  Eck  had  so  exasperated  him  that  he  would 
now  shake  himself  loose  and  write  and  do  things  from  which  he 
would  otherwise  have  refrained.  His  early  "  jest  "  at  Rome's 
expense  would  now  become  a  real  warfare  against  her3 — as 
though  Rome  was  to  be  made  to  suffer  for  Eck  and  his  violence. 
In  1521,  from  apprehension  of  his  violence  and  out  of  considera- 
tion for  the  Court,  Spalatin  had  kept  back  two  of  Luther's 
writings  which  the  latter  wished  to  be  printed.  "  I  shall  get  into 
a  towering  rage,"  so  the  author  wrote  to  him,  "  and  bring  out 
much  worse  things  on  this  subject  afterwards  if  my  manuscripts 
are  lost,  or  you  refuse  to  surrender  them.  You  cannot  destroy 
the  spirit  even  though  you  destroy  the  lifeless  paper."4 — This 
incident  at  so  early  a  date  shows  how  deeply  seated  in  him  was 
his  tendency  to  violence  ;  even  at  the  outset  it  was  to  some 
extent  personal  animus  which  led  him  to  shape  his  action  as  he 
did.  Self-esteem  and  the  plaudits  of  the  mob  had  even  then 
begun  to  dim  his  mental  vision. 

The  part  played  by  the  first  person  is  great  indeed  in 
Luther's  writings. 

"  We  should  all  have  fallen  back  into  the  state  of  the 
brute  !  "  "  Not  for  a  thousand  years  has  God  bestowed 
such  great  graces  on  any  bishop  as  on  me."  "  I,  wonderful 
monk  that  I  am,"  have,  by  God's  grace,  overthrown  the 
devil  of  Rome  ;  "I  have  stamped  off  the  heads  of  more  than 
twenty  factions,  as  though  they  had  been  worms."     Count- 

1  "  Utinam  haberent  plures  reges  Anglice,  qui  illos  occiderent."  Cp. 
Paulus,  "  Protestantismus  und  Toleranz  in  16.  Jahrh.,"  1911,  p.  17  ff. 

2  Dec,  1535,  "  Briefwechsel  "  10,  p.  275. 

3  Feb.  3,  1519,  "  Briefwechsel,"  1,  p.  410  ;  cp.  to  Spalatin,  Feb.  7, 
1519,  ib.,  p.  412. 

4  4-9  Dec,  152i,  ib.,  3',  p.  253  :  "  Exacerbabitur  mihi  spiritus,  ut 
multo  vehementiora  deinceps  in  earn  rem  nihilominus  moliar" 


less  other  such  utterances  are  to  be  found  in  what  has  gone 
before.1  "  He,"  so  he  declares,  "  was  surely  far  too  learned 
to  allow  himself  to  be  taught  by  the  Swiss  theologians  "  ; 
this  was  one  of  the  sayings  that  led  the  friends  of  the  latter 
to  speak  of  his  "  tyrannical  pride."2 

Here  come  the  fractious  Sacramentarians,  he  says,  and 
want  a  share  in  my  fame  ;  they  want  to  celebrate  a 
"  glorious  victory  "  as  though  it  was  not  from  me  that  they 
got  everything.  This  is  how  things  turn  out,  "  one  labours 
and  some  other  man  takes  the  fruit."3  Carlstadt  comes 
forward  and  seeks  to  become  a  new  doctor ;  "  he  is  anxious 
to  detract  from  my  importance  and  to  introduce  among  the 
people  his  own  regulations."4 

A  character  where  the  first  person  asserted  itself  so 
imperiously  could  not  but  be  a  disputatious  one.  Down  to 
his  very  last  years  Luther's  whole  life  was  filled  with  strife  : 
quarrels  with  the  jurists  ;  with  his  own  theologians  ;  with 
the  Jews  ;  with  the  Princes  and  rapacious  nobility  ;  with 
the  Popish  foemen  and  with  his  own  colleagues  and  followers, 
even  with  the  preachers  and  writers  dearest  to  him. 

Luther  sought  to  safeguard  his  cause  on  every  side,  even 
at  the  cost  of  concessions  at  variance  with  his  duty,  or  by 
grovelling  subserviency  to  the  Princes,  whether  he  actually 
granted  their  desire,5  or,  as  in  the  case  of  the  bigamy  of 
Henry  VIII  of  England,  merely  threw  out  a  suggestion.6 

His  new  ethical  principles  should  surely  have  been 
attested  in  his  own  person,  above  all  by  truthfulness.  In 
this  connection  we  must,  however,  recall  to  mind  the 
observations  made  elsewhere.    (Above,  vol.  iv.,  p.  80  ff.) 

Who  is  the  lover  of  truth  who  does  not  regret  the  advice 
Luther  gave  from  the  Coburg  to  his  followers  at  the  Diet  of 
Augsburg,  viz.  to  make  use  of  cunning  when  the  cause 
seemed  endangered  ?  Where  does  self-betterment  come  in 
if  "  tricks  and  lapses  "  are  to  form  a  part  of  his  life's  task, 
even  though  "  with  God's  help  "  they  were  afterwards  to 

1  Vol.  iv.,  p.  329  ff. 

2  Oswald  Myconius  to  Simon  Grynseus,  Nov.  8,  1534,  in  Kostlin- 
Kawerau,  2,  p.  665,  from  a  MS.  source :  "  Doctiorem  se  esse,  quam  qui 
ab  eiusmodi  hominibus  doceri  velit  "  ;  this  showed  his  "  tyrannica 

3  To  Amsdorf,  April  14,  1545,  "  Briefe  "  ed.  De  Wette,  5,  p.  728. 

4  To  Caspar  Giittel,  March  30,  1522,  "  Brief wechsel,"  3,  p.  326. 

5  Vol.  iv.,  p.  13  ff.  •  lb.,  p.  3  ff. 


be  amended  j1  if,  when  treating  of  the  most  important  church 
matters,  "  reservation  and  subterfuge  (l  insidice  ')  "  are  not 
only  to  be  used  but  even  to  be  represented  as  the  work  of 
Christ  ?  Wherever  the  principle  holds  :  Against  the  malice 
of  our  opponents  everything  is  lawful,2  there,  undoubtedly, 
the  least  honest  will  always  have  the  upper  hand.  As  to 
how  far  Luther  thought  himself  justified  in  going  in  order 
to  conceal  his  real  intentions  we  may  see  from  his  letters  to 
the  Pope,  particularly  from  the  last  letter  he  addressed  to 
him,  where  the  public  assertion  of  his  devotion  to  the  Roman 
Church  coincides  with  his  private  admission  to  friends  that 
the  Pope  was  Antichrist  and  that  he  had  sworn  to  attack 

In  his  relentless  polemics  against  the  Church — where  he 
does  not  hesitate  to  bring  the  most  baseless  of  charges 
against  both  her  dignitaries  and  her  institutions — we  might 
dismiss  as  not  uncommon  his  tendency  to  see  only  what  was 
evil,  eagerly  setting  this  in  the  foreground  while  passing 
over  all  that  was  good  ;  his  eyes  also  served  to  magnify  and 
distort  the  dark  spots  into  all  manner  of  grotesque  shapes. 
But  what  tells  more  heavily  against  him  is  his  having 
evolved  out  of  his  own  mind  a  mountain  of  false  doctrines 
which  he  foists  on  the  Church  as  hers,  though  in  reality  not 
one  of  them  but  the  very  opposite  was  taught  in  and  by  the 

The  Pope,  he  writes,  for  instance,  in  his  "  Vermaniig  "  from  the 
Coburg,  wants  to  "  forbid  marriage  "  and  teaches  that  the  "  love 
of  woman  "  is  to  be  despised  ;  this  is  one  of  the  abominations 
and  plagues  of  Antichrist,  for  God  created  woman  for  the  honour 
and  help  of  man."4  The  state  of  celibacy,  willingly  embraced  by 
many  under  the  Papacy,  Luther  decried  in  the  same  violent 
writing  as  a  "  state  befitting  whores  and  knaves,"5  and  he  even 
connects  with  it  unmentionable  abominations. 

1  Cp.  our  vol.  ii.,  p.  386  :  "  For  when  once  we  have  evaded  the 
peril  and  are  at  peace,  then  we  can  easily  atone  for  our  tricks  and 
lapses  ('  dolos  ac  lapsus  nostros '),  because  His  [God's]  mercy  is  over  us," 
etc.,  for  the  word  mendacia  after  dolos  see  vol.  iv.,  p.  96. 

2  See  vol.  iv.,  p.  95  :  "  In  cuius  [Antichristi]  deceptionem  et  nequitiam 
ob  salutem  animarum  nobis  omnia  licere  arbitramur." 

3  lb.,  p.  81  f. 

*  "  Werke,"  Erl.  ed.,  242,  p.  388  f.     Cp.  our  vol.  iv.,  p.  166  ff. 

5  lb.,  p.  391.  "  Even  should  the  Pope,  the  bishops,  the  canons 
and  the  people  wish  to  remain  in  the  state  of  celibacy,  or  the  state  of 
whores  and  knaves — and  even  the  heathen  poet  admits  that  fornica- 


He  had  declared  "  contempt  of  God  "  to  be  the  mark  of  the 
Papal  Antichrist,  but,  in  the  booklet  in  question,  and  elsewhere, 
we  find  him  tirelessly  charging  with  utter  forgetfulness  of  God, 
hatred  of  religion,  nay,  complete  absence  of  Christian  faith  not 
only  the  Pope  and  his  advisers — who,  none  of  them  rose  above 
an  Epicurean  faith — but  all  his  opponents,  particularly  those 
who  by  their  pen  had  damaged  his  doctrine.  "  Willingly  enough 
would  I  obey  the  Pope  and  all  the  bishops,  but  they  require  me 
to  deny  Christ  and  His  Gospel  and  to  take  of  God  a  liar,  there- 
fore I  prefer  to  attack  them."1  When,  in  addition  to  this,  he 
tries  in  all  seriousness  to  make  the  people  believe  that  at  Rome 
the  Gospel  and  all  it  contained  was  scoffed  at  ;  that  the  Papists 
were  all  sceptics ;  that  their  Doctors  did  not  even  know  the  Ten 
Commandments  ;  that  their  priests  were  quite  unable  to  quiet 
any  man's  conscience  ;  that  the  popish  doctrine  spelt  nothing 
but  murder,  and  that  indeed  every  Papist  must  be  a  murderer, 
etc.,2  one  is  tempted  to  seek  for  a  pathological  explanation  of  so 
strange  a  phenomenon.  Such  explanations  will,  it  is  true,  be 
forthcoming  in  due  course  and  will  furnish  grounds  for  a  more 
lenient  judgment.  Here  it  may  suffice  to  instance  the  terrific 
strength  of  will  which  dominated  Luther's  fiery  warfare,  and 
which  at  times  made  him  see  things  that  others,  even  his  own 
followers,  were  absolutely  unable  to  see.  Fortunately  his  mad 
statements  concerning  the  Papists'  love  of  murder  found  little 
credence,  any  more  than  his  repeated  assurance  that  the  Papists 
were  at  heart  on  his  side,  at  any  rate  their  leaders,  writers  and 
educated  men. 

He  seems,  however,  also  to  believe  many  other  monstrous 
things  :  it  was  his  discovery,  that,  "  in  the  Papacy,  men  sought 
to  find  salvation  in  Aristotle  "  ;  this  belief  he  attempted  to 
instil  into  the  people  in  a  sermon  of  1528. 3  In  1542  he  assured 
his  friends  in  tones  no  less  confident  that  the  Papists  had  suc- 
ceeded in  teaching  nothing  but  idolatry,  "  for  every  work  [as 
taught  by  them]  is  idolatry.  What  they  learnt  was  nothing  but 
holiness-by-works.  .  .  .  Man  was  to  perform  this  or  that ;  to  put 
on  a  cowl  or  get  his  head  shaved  ;  whoever  did  not  do  or  believe 
this  was  damned.  Yet,  on  the  other  hand,  even  if  a  man  did  all 
this  they  were  unable  to  say  with  certainty  whether  thereby  he 
would  be  saved.    Fie,  devil,  what  sort  of  doctrine  was  this  !  "4 

The  cowl  and  tonsure  of  the  monks  were  particularly  obnoxious 
to  him.  He  cherished  the  view  that  he  had  for  ever  extirpated 
monkery  ;  he  declared  that  even  the  heads  of  Catholicism  would 
not  in  future  endure  these  hateful  guests.  To  have  been  instru- 
mental in  preparing  such  a  fate  for  the  sons  of  the  most  noble- 
minded  men,  of  St.  Francis  of  Assisi  and  St.  Dominic,  and  for  all 

tors  and  whoremongers  are  loath  to  take  wives — still  I  hope  you  will 
take  pity  on  the  poor  pastors  and  those  who  have  the  cure  of  souls 
and  allow  them  to  marry." 

1  Cordatus,  "  Tageb.,"  p.  364.  2  Cp.  vol.  iv.,  p,  102  f. 

3  "  Werke,"  Weim.  ed.,  27,  p.  286. 

4  Mathesius,  "  Tischreden,"  p.  287, 

V.— I 


the  monks  generally,  who  had  been  the  trustiest  supports  of  the 
faith,  of  the  missions  and  of  civilisation,  this  appears  to  him  a 
triumph,  which  he  proceeds  to  magnify  out  of  all  proportion  the 
better  to  gloat  over  it. 

"  No  greater  service  has  ever  been  rendered  to  the  bishops  and 
pastors,"  so  he  writes  in  his  "  Vermanug,"  "  than  that  they 
should  thus  be  rid  of  the  monks  ;  and  I  venture  to  surmise  that 
there  is  hardly  anyone  now  at  Augsburg  who  would  take  the  part 
of  the  monks  and  beg  for  their  reinstatement.  Indeed  the  bishops 
will  not  permit  such  bugs  and  lice  again  to  fasten  on  their  fur 
[their  cappas],  but  are  right  glad  that  I  have  washed  the  fur  so 
clean  for  them."1 — The  untruth  of  this  is  self-evident.  If  some 
few  short-sighted  or  tepid  bishops  among  them  were  willing  to 
dispense  with  the  monks,  still  this  was  not  the  general  feeling 
towards  those  auxiliaries  of  the  Church,  whom  Luther  himself 
on  the  same  page  dubs  the  "  Pope's  right-hand  men."  But  the 
lie  was  calculated  to  impress  those  who  possessed  influence. 

Further  untruths  are  found  in  this  booklet  :  Hitherto,  the 
monks,  not  the  bishops,  had  "  governed  the  churches  "  ;  it  was 
merely  his  peaceable  teaching  and  the  power  of  the  Word  that 
had  "  destroyed  "  the  monks  ;  this  the  bishops,  "  backed  by  the 
might  of  all  the  kings  and  with  all  the  learning  of  the  universities 
at  their  command  had  not  been  able  to  do."2  Let  no  one 
accuse  him  of  "  preaching  sedition,"  so  he  goes  on  ;  he  had 
merely  "  taught  the  people  to  keep  the  peace  "  ;3  he  would  much 
rather  have  preferred  to  end  his  days  in  retirement  ;  "  for  me 
there  will  be  no  better  tidings  than  to  hear  that  I  had  been 
removed  from  the  office  of  preacher  "  ;  better  and  more  pious 
heretics  than  the  Lutherans  had  never  before  been  met  with  ;  he 
cannot  deny  that  there  is  nothing  lacking  in  his  doctrine  and  in 
that  of  his  "followers  .  .  .  whatever  their  life  may  be."4 

We  have  here  a  row  of  instances  of  the  honesty  of  his 
polemics  and  of  the  way  in  which  he  treated  with  the  State 
authorities  concerning  the  deepest  matters  of  the  Church's 
life.  Often  enough  his  polemics  consist  solely  of  unwarrant- 
able statements  concerning  his  own  pacific  intentions  and 
salutary  achievements,  supported  by  revolting  untruths, 
misrepresentations  and  exaggerations  tending  to  damage 
his  opponents'  case. 

Beyond  this  we  frequently  find  him  having  recourse  to 
low  and  unworthy  language,  and  to  filthy  and  unmannerly 
abuse.    (Vol.  iv.,  p.  318  ff.) 

"  When  they  are  most  angry  I  say  to  the  Papists,"  he  cries  in 
his    "  Warnunge  an   seine  lieben  Deudschen,"    "  My  dear  sirs, 

1  "  Werke,"  Erl.  ed.,  242,  p.  364. 

lb.,  p.  365.  3  lb.,  p.  364.  4  lb.,  p.  361 


leave  the  wall,  relieve  yourselves  into  your  drawers  and  sling  it 
round  your  neck.  ...  If  they  do  not  care  to  accept  my  services, 
then  the  devil  may  well  be  thankful  to  them  !  "  etc.1  "  Oh,  the 
shameful  Diet,  such  as  has  never  before  been  held  or  heard  of  .  .  . 
an  everlasting  blot  on  the  whole  Empire  !  What  will  the  Turk 
say  ...  to  our  allowing  the  accursed  Pope  with  his  minions  to 
fool  and  mock  at  us,  to  treat  us  as  children,  nay,  as  clouts  and 
blocks,  to  our  behaving  contrary  to  justice  and  truth,  nay,  with 
such  utter  shamelessness  in  open  Diet  as  regards  their  blasphemies, 
their  shameful  and  Sodomitic  life  and  doctrines  ?  "2  These  were 
the  words  in  which  he  described  the  Diet  of  Augsburg  in  1530. 

We  may  here  recall  the  saying  of  Valentine  Ickelsamer  the 
Anabaptist.  At  one  time  he  had  thought  of  espousing  Luther's 
cause,  but  "  owing  to  the  diabolical  abuse  "  which  he  piled  on 
"  erring  men  "  it  was  possible  to  regard  him  only  "as  a  non- 
Christian."  Luther  wanted  to  overthrow  his  opponents  simply 
by  words  "  of  abuse  "  ;  these  "  Saxon  rogues  of  Wittenberg," 
"  when  unable  to  get  what  they  want  by  means  of  a  few  kind 
words,  invoke  on  you  all  the  curses  of  the  devil." 

Heinrich  Bullinger  complains  repeatedly,  and  quite  as  bitterly, 
of  the  frightful  storm  into  which  Luther's  eloquence  was  apt 
to  break  out.  It  is  noteworthy  that  he  applies  what  he  says  to 
Luther's  polemics,  not  merely  against  the  Swiss,  but  against 
other  opponents.  "  Here  all  men  have  in  their  hands  Luther's 
King  Harry  of  England,  and  another  Harry  as  well,  in  his  un- 
savoury Hans  Worst  ;  item,  they  have  Luther's  book  on  the 
Jews  with  its  hideous  letters  of  the  Bible  dropped  from  the 
posterior  of  the  pig,  which  the  Jews  may  swallow,  indeed,  but 
never  read  ;  then,  again,  there  is  Luther's  filthy,  swinish  Schem- 
hamphorasch,  for  which  some  small  excuse  might  have  been  found 
had  it  been  written  by  a  swine-herd  and  not  by  a  famous  pastor 
of  souls."3 

"  And  yet  most  people,"  so  Bullinger  says,  "  even  go  so  far  as 
to  worship  the  houndish,  filthy  eloquence  of  the  man.  Thus  it 
comes  that  he  goes  his  way  and  seeks  to  outdo  himself  in  vitupera- 
tion. .  .  .  Many  pious  and  learned  people  take  scandal  at  his 
insolence,  which  really  is  beyond  measure."  He  should  have 
someone  at  his  side  to  keep  a  check  on  him,  so  Bullinger  tells 
Bucer,  for  instance,  his  friend  Melanchthon,  "  so  that  Luther  may 
not  ruin  a  good  cause  with  his  wonted  invective,  his  bitterness,  his 
torrent  of  bad  words  and  his  ridicule."4 

And  yet  Luther  at  this  very  time,  in  his  "  Warnunge,"  calls 
himself  "  the  German  Prophet  "  and  "  a  faithful  teacher."5 

The  following  words  of  Erasmus  contain  a  general  censure  : 
"  You  wish  to  be  taken  for  a  teacher  of  the  Gospel.  In  that  case, 
however,  would  it  not  better  beseem  you  not  to  repel  all  the 
prudent  and  well-meaning  by  your  vituperation  nor  to  incite  men 

1  "  Werke,"  Weim.  ed.,  30, 

2  76.,  p.  285- 14  f. 

3  "  Wahrhaffte  Bekanntnuss,"  Bl.  9'.  4  lb. 
5  "  Werke,"  Weim.  ed.,  30,  3,  p.  290  ;  Erl.  ed.,  252,  p.  22. 


to  strife  and  revolt  in  these  already  troubled  times  ?  Ml — "  You 
snarl  at  me  as  an  Epicurean.  Had  I  been  an  Epicurean  and  lived 
in  the  time  of  the  Apostles  and  heard  them  proclaim  the  Gospel 
with  such  invective,  then  I  fear  I  should  have  remained  an 
Epicurean.  .  .  .  Whoever  is  conscious  of  teaching  a  holy 
doctrine  should  not  behave  with  insolence  and  delight  in  malicious 
misrepresentation."2 — "  To  what  class  of  spirits,"  he  had  already 
asked  him,  "  does  yours  belong,  if  indeed  it  be  a  spirit  at  all  ? 
And  what  unevangelical  way  is  this  of  inculcating  the  holy 
Gospel  ?  Has  perchance  the  risen  Gospel  done  away  with  all  the 
laws  of  public  order  so  that  now  one  may  say  and  write  any- 
thing against  anyone  ?  Does  the  freedom  you  are  bringing  back 
to  us  spell  no  more  than  this  ?  "3 

Kindlier  Traits  and  Episodes 

The  unprejudiced  reader  will  gladly  turn  his  gaze  from 
pictures  such  as  the  above  to  the  more  favourable  traits  in 
Luther's  character,  which,  as  already  shown  elsewhere,4 
are  by  no  means  lacking. 

Whoever  has  the  least  acquaintance  with  his  Kirchen- 
postille  and  Hauspostille  will  not  scruple  to  acknowledge 
the  good  and  morally  elevating  undercurrent  which  runs 
below  his  polemics  and  peculiar  theories.  For  instance,  his 
exhortations,  so  warm  and  eloquent,  to  give  alms  to  the 
needy  ;  his  glowing  praise  of  Holy  Scripture  and  of  the 
consolation  its  divine  words  bring  to  troubled  hearts  ;  again, 
his  efforts  to  promote  education  and  juvenile  instruction  ; 
his  admonitions  to  assist  at  the  sermon  and  at  Divine 
worship,  to  avoid  envy,  strife,  avarice  and  gluttony,  and 
private  no  less  than  public  vice  of  every  kind. 

The  many  who  are  familiar  only  with  this  beautiful  and 
inspiring  side  of  his  writings,  and  possibly  of  his  labours, 
must  not  take  it  amiss  if,  in  a  work  like  the  present,  the 
historian  is  no  less  concerned  with  the  opposite  side  of 
Luther's  writings  and  whole  conduct. 

As  a  matter  of  fact,  gentler  tones  often  mingle  with  the 
harsher  notes,  while  the  unpleasant  traits  just  described 
alter  at  times  and  tend  to  assume  a  more  favourable  aspect. 
This  is  occasionally  true  of  his  severity,  his  defiant  and 
imperious  behaviour.  He  not  seldom,  thanks  to  this  art 
of   his,    achieved   good   and   eminently   creditable   results, 

1  "  Opp."  10,  col.  1558.     "  Adv.  ep.  Lutheri." 

2  lb.,  1555.  3  lb.,  1334.     "  Hyperaspistes." 
4  Vol.  iv.,  p.  228  ff. 


particularly  in  the  protection  of  the  poor  or  oppressed. 
Many  who  were  in  dire  straits  were  wont  to  apply  to  him  in 
order  to  secure  his  powerful  intervention  with  the  authori- 
ties on  their  behalf. 

During  the  famine  of  1539,  when  the  nobles  avariciously 
cornered  the  grain,  Luther  made  strong  representations  to 
the  Elector  and  begged  him  to  come  to  the  assistance  of  the 
town.  Nor,  in  the  same  year,  did  he  hesitate  to  address  a 
severe  "  warning  "  to  the  Electoral  steward,  the  Knight 
Franz  Schott  of  Coburg,  when  the  town-council  at  his 
instigation  was  moved  to  take  too  precipitate  action.1 

Best  known  of  all,  however,  was  his  powerful  intervention 
in  the  case  of  a  certain  man  whose  misdeeds  were  the  plague 
of  the  Saxon  Electorate  from  1534  to  1540  ;  this  was  Hans 
Kohlhase,  a  Berlin  merchant.  He  had  been  overreached  in  a 
matter  of  two  horses  by  a  certain  Saxon  squire  of  Zaschwitz, 
and  had  afterwards  lost  his  case  in  the  courts.  In  order  to 
obtain  satisfaction  Kohlhase  formally  gave  out,  that  he 
would  "  rob,  burn,  capture  and  hold  to  ransom  "  the 
Saxons  until  he  obtained  redress.  Incendiary  fires  broke 
out  shortly  after  in  Wittenberg  and  the  neighbourhood 
which  were  laid  to  the  charge  of  Kohlhase's  men.  The 
Elector  could  think  of  no  better  plan  than  to  suggest  a 
settlement  between  the  merchant,  now  turned  robber- 
knight,  and  the  heirs  of  the  above-mentioned  squire  ;  it 
was  then  that  Kohlhase  appealed  to  Luther  for  advice. 

Luther  replied  with  authority  and  dignity,  not  hesitating 
to  rebuke  him  for  his  unprincipled  action.  He  would  not 
escape  the  wrath  of  God  if  he  continued  to  pursue  his 
unheard-of  course  of  private  revenge,  since  it  stands  written 
that  "  Vengeance  is  mine  "  ;  the  shameful  acts  of  violence 
which  had  been  perpetrated  by  his  men  would  be  put  down 
to  his  account.  He  ought  not  to  take  the  devil  as  his 
sponsor.  If  in  spite  of  all  peaceful  efforts  he  failed  to 
succeed  in  obtaining  his  due,  then  nothing  was  left  but  for 
him  to  submit  to  the  Divine  decree,  which  was  always  for 
our  best,  and  to  suffer  in  patience.  He  consoled  him  at  the 
same  time  in  a  friendly  way  for  such  injury  and  outrage  as 
he  might  have  endured  ;  nor  was  it  wrong  to  seek  redress, 
but  this  must  be  done  within  the  right  bounds.2 

1  Kostlin-Kawerau,  2,  p.  442. 

2  Dec.  8,  1534,  "  Werke,"  Erl.  ed.,  55,  p.  71  ("  Brief wechsel,"  10, 

118         LUTHER  THE  REFORMER 

The  well-meaning  letter,  which  does  Luther  credit,  had 
unfortunately  no  effect. 

The  attempted  arbitration,  owing  to  the  leniency  of  the 
Electoral  agent,  Hans  Metzsch,  ended  so  much  to  the 
advantage  of  Kohlhase  that  the  Elector,  partly  owing  to  his 
strained  relations  with  Brandenburg,  refused  to  ratify  it. 
Kohlhase' s  bands  came  from  Brandenburg  and  fell  upon  the 
undefended  castles  and  villages  in  the  Saxon  Electorate. 
Their  raids  were  also  to  some  extent  connived  at  by  the 
Elector  of  Brandenburg.  They  excited  great  terror  even 
at  Wittenberg  itself  owing  to  sudden  attacks  made  in  the 
vicinity  of  the  town.  New  attempts  to  reach  a  settlement 
brought  them  to  a  standstill  for  a  while,  but  soon  the  strange 
civil  war — an  echo  of  the  Peasant  Rising  and  Revolt  of  the 
Knights — broke  out  anew  and  lasted  until  1539. 

Luther  told  his  friends  that  such  things  could  never  have 
taken  place  under  the  Landgrave  of  Hesse  ;  that,  as  the 
principal  actor  had  shed  blood,  he  would  himself  die  a 
violent  death.  In  1539  he  invited  the  Elector  of  Saxony 
by  letter  to  act  as  the  father  of  his  country  ;  he  should  come 
to  the  assistance  of  his  people  who  were  at  the  mercy  of 
a  criminal,  nor  should  he  leave  the  Elector  of  Brandenburg 
a  free  hand  if  it  were  true  that  he  was  implicated  in  the 

Finally  Kohlhase,  after  committing  excesses  even  in 
Brandenburg  itself,  was  executed  at  Berlin  on  March  22, 
1540,  being  broken  on  the  wheel. 

On  Luther's  admonition  to  the  robber,  Protestant  legend 
soon  laid  hold,  and,  even  in  the  second  half  of  the  16th 
century,  we  find  it  further  embellished.  There  is  hardly 
a  popular  history  of  Luther  to-day  which  does  not  give  the 
scene  where  Kohlhase,  in  disguise,  knocks  at  Luther's  door 
one  dark  night  and  on  his  reply  to  the  question,  "Art  thou 

p.  88  f.) ;  "Briefe,"  4,  p.  567  ff.  :  "To  set  ourselves  up  as  judges  and 
ourselves  to  judge  is  assuredly  wrong,  and  the  wrath  of  God  will  not 
leave  it  unpunished."  "  If  you  desire  my  advice,  as  you  write,  I 
counsel  you  to  accept  peace,  however  you  reach  it,  and  rather  to  suffer 
in  your  goods  and  your  honour  than  to  involve  yourself  further  in  such 
an  undertaking  where  you  will  have  to  take  upon  yourself  all  the  crimes 
and  wickedness  that  are  committed.  .  .  .  You  must  consider  for  how 
much  your  conscience  will  have  to  answer  if  you  knowingly  bring 
about  the  destruction  of  so  many  people." 

1  Cp.  Lauterbach,  "  Tagebuch,"  p.  159.  "  Brief wechsel,"  12, 
pp.  84-102  ;    13,  p.  13. 


Kohlhase  ?  "  is  admitted  by  the  latter,  explains  his  quarrel 
in  the  presence  of  Melanchthon,  Cruciger  and  others  and  is 
reconciled  with  God  and  his  fellow-men  ;  he  then  promises 
to  abstain  from  violence  in  future  as  Luther  and  his  people 
are  willing  to  help  him  to  his  rights,  and  the  romantic  visit 
closes  by  the  repentant  sinner  making  his  confession  and 
receiving  the  Supper. 

The  only  chronicler  of  the  March  who  relates  this  at  the 
date  mentioned  above  fails  to  give  any  authority  for  his 
narrative,  nor  can  it,  as  Kostlin-Kawerau  points  out,  be 
assigned  its  place  "  anywhere  in  Kohlhase's  life-story  as 
otherwise  known  to  us."1  Luther's  own  statements  con- 
cerning the  affair,  particularly  his  last  ones,  do  not  agree 
with  such  an  ending  ;  throughout  he  appears  as  the 
champion  of  outraged  justice  against  a  public  offender.  The 
not  unkindly  words  in  which  Luther  had  answered  Kohlhase's 
request  were  probably  responsible  for  the  legend,  which 
sprang  up  all  the  easier  seeing  that  numerous  instances  were 
known  where  Luther's  powerful  intervention  had  succeeded 
in  restraining  violence  and  in  securing  victory  for  the  cause 
of  justice  against  the  oppressor.2 

The  Reformation  of  the  Church  and  Luther's  Ethics 

The  defenders  of  the  ancient  faith  urged  very  strongly 
that  the  first  step  towards  a  real  moral  reformation  of  the 
Church  was  to  depict  the  Church  as  she  was  to  be  in  accord- 
ance with  Christ's  institution  and  the  best  traditions,  and 
then,  with  the  help  of  this  standard,  to  see  how  far  the 
Church  of  the  times  fell  short  of  this  ideal ;  in  order  to 
re-form  any  institution,  so  they  argued,  we  must  be  ac- 
quainted with  its  primitive  shape  so  as  to  be  able  to  revert 
to  it. 

This  they  declared  they  had  in  vain  asked  of  Luther,  who, 
on  the  contrary,  seemed  bent  on  subverting  the  whole 
Church.  They  even  failed  to  see  that  he  had  suggested  any 
means  wherewith  to  withstand  the  moral  shortcomings  of 
the  age.  In  their  eyes  the  radical  and  destructive  changes 
on  which  he  so  vehemently  insisted  spelt  no  real  improve- 
ment ;    the  discontent  with  prevailing  conditions  which  he 

1  Kostlin-Kawerau,  2,  p.  444. 

2  Cp.  C.  A.  "Burkhardt,  "  Der  historische  Hans  Kohlhase,"  1864. 


preached  to  the  people  could  not  but  create  a  wrong  atmo- 
sphere ;  nor  could  the  abolishing  of  the  Church's  spiritual 
remedies,  the  slighting  of  her  commands  and  the  revolting 
treatment  of  the  hierarchy  serve  the  cause  of  prudent 
Church  reform. 

Luther  himself,  in  his  so-called  "  Bull  and  Reformation," 
put  forth  his  demands  for  the  reform  of  ecclesiastical 
conditions  as  they  presented  themselves  to  his  mind  during 
the  days  of  his  fiercest  struggle.1  The  "  Bull  "  does  not, 
however,  afford  any  positive  scheme  of  reformation',  as  the 
title  might  lead  one  to  suppose.  It  is  made  up  wholly  of 
denials  and  polemics,  and  the  same  is  true  of  his  later  works. 

According  to  this  writing  the  bishops  are  "  not  merely 
phantoms  and  idols,  but  folk  accursed  in  God's  sight  "  ; 
they  corrupt  souls,  and,  against  them,  "  every  Christian 
should  strive  with  body  and  substance."  One  should 
"  cheerfully  do  to  them  everything  that  they  disliked,  just 
as  though  they  were  the  devil  himself."  All  those  who  now 
are  pastors  must  repudiate  the  obedience  which  they  gave 
"  with  the  promise  of  chastity,"  seeing  that  this  obedience 
was  promised,  not  to  God,  but  to  the  devil,  "  just  as  a  man 
must  repudiate  a  compact  he  has  made  with  the  devil." 
44  This  is  my  Bull,  yea,  Dr.  Luther's  own,"  etc. 

In  this  Luther  was  striking  out  a  new  road.  Christ  and 
his  Apostles  had  begun  the  moral  reform  of  the  world  by 
preaching  the  doing  of  "  penance,  for  the  Kingdom  of 
Heaven  is  at  hand."  True  enough  such  a  preaching  can 
never  have  been  so  popular  with  the  masses  as  Luther's 
invitation  to  overthrow  the  Church. 

Luther's  "  Reformation  "  did  not,  however,  consist  merely 
in  the  overthrow  of  the  olden  ecclesiasticism  ;  it  also  strove 
to  counteract  much  that  was  really  amiss. 

His  action  had  this  to  recommend  it,  that  it  threw  into 
the  full  light  of  day  the  shady  side  of  ecclesiastical  life  ;  after 
all,  knowledge  of  the  evil  is  already  a  step  towards  its 
betterment.  For  centuries  few  had  had  the  courage  to  point 
a  finger  at  the  Church's  wounds  so  insistently  as  Luther  ; 
at  the  ills  rampant  in  the  clergy,  Church  government  and  in 
the  faith  and  morals  of  the  people.  His  piercing  glance  saw 
into  every  corner,  and,  assisted  by  expert  helpers,  some  of 

1  "  Werke,"  Weim.  ed.,  10,  2,  p.  140  ff. ;  Erl.  ed.,  28,  p.  178  ff.  In 
"  Wyder  den  falsch  genantten  gaystlichen  Standt,"  1522. 


them  formerly  officials  of  the  Curia,  he  laid  bare  every 
regrettable  disorder,  needless  to  say  not  without  exaggerat- 
ing everything  to  his  heart's  content.  Practically,  however, 
Luther's  revelations  represent  what  was  best  in  the  move- 
ment which  professed  to  aim  at  a  reform  of  morals.  Had  he 
not  embittered  with  such  unspeakable  hate  the  long  list 
of  shortcomings  with  which  he  persistently  confronted  the 
olden  Church,  had  he  used  it  as  a  means  of  amendment  and 
not  rather  as  a  goad  whereby  to  excite  the  masses,  then  one 
might  have  been  even  more  thankful  to  him. 

It  cannot  be  gainsaid  that,  particularly  at  the  outset, 
ethical  motives  were  at  work  in  him  ;  that  he  like  others 
felt  the  burden  of  the  evil,  was  certainly  no  lie. 

Yet  it  must  not  be  forgotten  that  he  attacked  the  Pope 
and  the  Church  so  violently,  not  on  account  of  any  refusal 
to  amend,  but  in  order  to  clear  a  path  for  his  subversive 
views  of  theology  and  for  the  "  Evangel "  which  had  been 
condemned  by  ecclesiastical  authority.  The  very  magnitude 
of  the  attack  he  led  on  the  whole  conception  of  the  Church, 
in  itself  proves  that  it  was  no  mere  question  of  defending 
the  rights  of  Christian  ethics  ;  the  removal  of  moral  dis- 
orders from  Christendom  was  to  him  but  a  secondary 
concern,  and,  moreover,  he  certainly  did  everything  he 
could  to  render  impossible  any  ordered  abolishment  of 
abuses  and  any  real  improvement. 

One  may  even  ask  whether  he  had  any  programme  at  all 
for  the  betterment  of  the  Church.  The  question  is  made 
almost  superfluous  by  the  history  of  the  struggle.  He  him- 
self never  set  up  before  his  mind  any  regular  programme  for 
his  work,  whether  ecclesiastical,  social  or  even  ethical,  when 
once  he  had  come  to  see  that  the  idealist  scheme  in  his 
"  An  den  christlichen  Adel  "  was  impossible  of  realisation. 
Hence,  when  he  had  succeeded  in  destroying  the  old  order 
in  a  small  portion  of  the  Church's  territory,  he  had  perforce 
to  begin  an  uncertain  search  after  something  new  whereby 
to  replace  it ;  nothing  could  be  more  hopeless  than  his 
efforts  to  build  up  from  the  ruins  a  new  Church  and  a  new 
society,  a  new  liturgy  and  a  new  canon  law,  and  to  improve 
the  morals  of  the  adherents  of  his  cause.  In  spite  of  Luther's 
aversion  to  the  scheme,  it  came  about  that  the  whole  work 
of  reformation  was,  by  the  force  of  circumstances,  left  to 
the  secular  authorities  ;   from  the  Consistories  down  to  the 

122         LUTHER  THE  REFORMER 

school-teachers,  from  the  Marriage  Courts  down  to  the 
guardians  of  the  poor,  everything  came  into  the  hands  of  the 
State.  Luther  had  been  wont  to  complain  that  the  Church 
in  olden  days  had  drawn  all  secular  affairs  to  herself.  Since 
his  day,  on  the  other  hand,  everything  that  pertained  to 
the  Church  was  secularised.  The  actual  result  was  a 
gradual  alienation  of  secular  and  ecclesiastical,  quite  at 
variance  with  the  theories  embodied  in  the  faith.  In  this 
it  is  impossible  to  see  a  true  reformation  in  any  moral 
meaning  of  the  word,  and  Luther's  ethics,  which  made  all 
secular  callings  independent  of  the  Church,  failed  in  the 
event  to  celebrate  any  triumph. 

The  better  to  appreciate  certain  striking  contrasts  between 
the  olden  Church  and  her  ratification  of  morality  on  the  one 
hand  and  Luther's  thought  on  the  other,  we  may  glance  at 
his  attitude  towards  canonisation  and  excommunication. 

Canonisation  and  excommunication  are  two  opposite  poles 
of  the  Church's  life  ;  by  the  one  the  Church  stamps  her 
heroes  with  the  seal  of  perfection  and  sets  them  up  for  the 
veneration  of  the  faithful ;  by  the  other  she  excludes  the 
unworthy  from  her  communion,  using  thereto  the  greatest 
punishment  at  her  command.  Both  are,  to  the  eye  of  faith, 
powerful  levers  in  the  moral  life. 

Luther,  however,  laughed  both  to  scorn.  The  ban  he 
attacked  on  principle,  particularly  after  he  himself  had 
fallen  under  it ;  in  this  his  action  differed  from  that  of 
Catholic  writers,  many  of  whom  had  written  against  the  ban 
though  only  to  lament  its  abuse  and  its  too  frequent  employ- 
ment for  the  defence  of  the  material  position  of  the  clergy. 

The  Pope,  according  to  Luther,  had  made  such  a  huge  "  mess 
in  the  Church  by  means  of  the  Greater  Excommunication  that 
the  swine  could  not  get  to  the  end  with  devouring  it."1  Chris- 
tians, according  to  him,  ought  to  be  taught  rather  to  love  the 
ban  of  the  Church  than  to  fear  it.  We  ourselves,  he  cries,  put 
the  Pope  under  the  ban  and  declare  that  "  the  Pope  and  his 
followers  are  no  believers." 

Later  on,  however,  he  came  to  see  better  the  use  of  ghostly 
penalties  for  unseemly  conduct  and  made  no  odds  in  em- 
phasising the  right  of  the  community  as  such  to  make  use  of 
exclusion  as  a  punishment ;  in  view  of  the  increase  of  disorders 
he  essayed  repeatedly  to  reintroduce  on  his  own  authority  a  sort 
of  ban  in  his  Churches.2 

1  "  Werke,"  Erl.  ed.,  44,  p.  84.    In  the  sermons  on  Mt.  xviii.-xxiii. 

2  See  xxix.,  8. 


As  early  as  1519  Luther  had  expressed  his  disapproval  of  the 
canonising  of  Saints  by  the  Church,  a  practice  which  stimulated 
the  moral  efforts  of  the  faithful  by  setting  up  an  ideal  and  by 
encouraging  daily  worship  ;  he  added,  however,  that  "  each  one 
was  free  to  canonise  as  much  as  he  pleased."1  In  1524,  however, 
he  poured  forth  his  wrath  on  the  never-ending  canonisations  ; 
as  a  rule  they  were  "  nothing  but  Popish  Saints  and  no  Christian 
Saints  "  ;2  the  foundations  made  in  their  honour  served  "  merely 
to  fatten  lazy  gluttons  and  indolent  swine  in  the  Churches  "  ; 
before  the  Judgment  Day  no  one  could  "  pronounce  any  man 
holy  "  ;  Elisabeth,  Augustine,  Jerome,  Ambrose,  Bernard  and 
Francis,  even  he  regarded  as  holy,  though  he  would  not  stake 
his  life  on  it,  seeing  there  was  nothing  about  them  in  Holy 
Scripture  ;  "  but  the  Pope,  nay,  all  the  angels,  had  not  the 
power  of  setting  up  a  new  article  of  faith  not  contained  in  Scrip- 

On  May  31,  1523,  was  canonised  the  venerable  bishop  Benno 
of  Meissen,  a  contemporary  of  Gregory  VII.  Luther  was  in- 
censed to  the  last  degree  at  the  thought  of  the  special  celebration 
to  be  held  in  1524  in  the  town — the  Duchy  being  still  Catholic — 
in  honour  of  the  new  Saint.  He  accordingly  published  his 
"  Against  the  new  idol  and  olden  devil  about  to  be  set  up  at 
Meyssen."4  His  use  of  the  term  "  devil  "  in  the  title  he  vindi- 
cates as  follows  on  the  very  first  page  :  Now,  that,  "  by  the 
grace  of  God,  the  Gospel  has  again  arisen  and  shines  brightly," 
"  Satan  incarnate "  is  avenging  himself  "  by  means  of  such 
foolery  "  and  is  causing  himself  to  be  worshipped  with  great 
pomp  under  the  name  of  Benno.  It  was  not  in  his  power  to 
prevent  Duke  George  setting  up  the  relics  at  Meissen  and  erecting 
an  artistic  and  costly  altar  in  their  honour.  The  only  result  of 
Luther's  attack  was  to  increase  the  devotion  of  clergy  and  people, 
who  confidently  invoked  the  saintly  bishop's  protection  against 
the  inroads  of  apostasy.  The  attack  also  led  Catholic  writers  in 
the  Duchy  to  publish  some  bitter  rejoinders.  The  rudeness  of 
their  titles  bears  witness  to  their  indignation.  "  Against  the 
Wittenberg  idol  Martin  Luther  "  was  the  title  of  the  pamphlet 
of  Augustine  Alveld,  a  Franciscan  Guardian  ;  the  work  of  Paul 
Bachmann,  Abbot  of  Alte  Zelle,  was  entitled  "Against  the 
fiercely  snorting  wild-boar  Luther,"  and  that  of  Hieronymus 
Emser,  "  Reply  to  Luther's  slanderous  book."  The  last  writer 
was  to  some  extent  involved  in  the  matter  of  the  canonisation 
through  having  published  the  Legend  of  the  famous  Bishop. 
This  he  had  done  rather  uncritically  and  without  testing  his 
authorities,  and  for  this  reason  had  been  read  a  severe  lesson  by 

1  "  Werke,"  Weim.  ed.,  2,  p.  651  f.  ;  "  Opp.  lat.  var.,"  2,  p.  511. 
In  the  "  Defensio  contra  Eccii  iudicium." 

2  lb.,  Weim.  ed.,  15,  p.  183  ;  Erl.  ed.,  242,  p.  251.  "  Widder  den 
newen  Abgott  und  allten  Teuffel  der  zu  Meyssen  sol  erhaben  werden." 

3  lb.,  p.  194  f.  =  264. 

4  lb.,  p.  175=249. 

124         LUTHER   THE   REFORMER 

Luther's  opposition  to  this  canonisation  was,  however, 
by  no  means  dictated  by  historical  considerations  but  by  his 
hatred  of  all  veneration  of  the  Saints  and  by  his  aversion  to 
the  ideal  of  Christian  self-denial,  submissive  obedience  to 
the  Church  and  Catholic  activity  of  which  the  canonised 
Saints  are  models.  He  himself  makes  it  easy  to  answer  the 
question  whether  it  was  zeal  for  the  moral  reformation  of 
the  Church  which  drove  him  to  assail  canonisation  and  the 
veneration  of  the  Saints  ;  nowhere  else  is  his  attempt  to 
destroy  the  sublime  ideal  of  Christian  life  which  he  failed  to 
understand  and  to  drag  down  to  the  gutter  all  that  was 
highest  so  clearly  apparent  as  here.  The  real  Saints,  so  he 
declared,  were  his  Wittenbergers.  Striving  after  great 
holiness  on  the  part  of  the  individual  merely  tended  to 
derogate  from  Christ's  work ;  the  Evangelical  Counsels 
fostered  only  a  mistaken  desertion  of  the  world. 

Judging  others  by  his  own  standard,  he  attempted  to  drag 
down  the  Saints  of  the  past  to  the  level  of  mediocrity.  Real 
Saints  must  be  "  good,  lusty  sinners  who  do  not  blush  to 
insert  in  the  Our  Father  the  *  forgive  us  our  trespasses.' ' 
It  was  "  consoling  "  to  him  to  hear,  that  the  Apostles,  too, 
even  after  they  had  received  the  Holy  Ghost,  had  at  times 
been  shaky  in  their  faith,  and  "  very  consoling  indeed  "  that 
the  Saints  of  both  Old  and  New  Covenant  "  had  fallen  into 
great  sins  "  ;  only  thus,  so  he  fancies,  do  we  learn  to  know 
the  "  Kingdom  of  Christ,"  viz.  the  forgiveness  of  sins. 
Even  Abraham,  agreeably  with  Luther's  interpretation  of 
Josue  xxiv.  2,  was  represented  to  have  worshipped  idols, 
in  order  that  Luther  might  be  able  to  instance  his  con- 
version and  say  :  Believe  like  him  and  you  will  be  as  holy 
as  he.1 

The  Reformation  in  the  Duchy  of  Saxony  considered  as 

In  1539,  after  the  death  of  Duke  George,  at  Luther's 
instance,  the  protestantising  of  the  duchy  of  Saxony  was 
undertaken  with  unseemly  haste  ;  to  this  end  Henry,  the 
new  sovereign,  ordered  a  Visitation  on  the  lines  of  that 
held  in  the   Saxon  Electorate  and  to  be  carried  out  by 

1  Cp.  vol.  iii.,  p.  191  f . ;  211  f.  and  Joh.  Wieser  in  "  Luther  und 
Ignatius  von  Loyola"  ("  Zeitschr.  f.  kath.  Theol.,"  7  (1883)  and  8 
(1884),  particularly  8,  p.  365  ft.). 


preachers  placed  at  his  disposal  by  the  Elector.  Jonas  and 
Spalatin  now  became  the  visitors  for  Meissen.  Before  this, 
on  the  occasion  of  the  canonisation  of  St.  Benno,  Spalatin, 
in  a  letter  to  Luther,  had  treated  the  canonisation  as 
a  laughing  matter.  On  July  14,  the  visitors,  alleging  the 
authority  of  the  Duke,  summoned  the  Cathedral  Chapter  at 
Meissen  to  remove  the  sepulchre  of  St.  Benno.  On  this 
being  met  by  a  refusal  armed  men  were  sent  to  the  Cathedral 
the  following  night.  "  '  They  broke  into  fragments  the 
richly  ornamented  sepulchre  of  the  Saint,  together  with  the 
altar,'  to  quote  the  words  of  the  bishop's  report  to  the 
Emperor,  4  they  decapitated  a  wooden  statue  of  St.  Benno 
and  stuck  it  up  outside  as  a  butt  for  ridicule.'  "* 

Luther,  for  his  part,  in  a  letter  to  Jonas  of  August  14  of 
the  same  year,  has  his  little  joke  about  the  visitors'  undoing 
of  the  canonisation  of  Benno.  "  You  have  unsainted  Benno 
and  have  shown  no  fear  of  Cochlseus,  Schmid,  nor  of  the 
Nausei  and  Sadoleti,  who  teach  the  contrary.  They  are 
indignant  with  you,  ultra-sensitive  men  that  they  are,  know- 
ing so  little  of  grammar  and  so  much  less  of  theology."2 

Nor  did  the  progress  of  the  overthrow  of  the  Church 
throughout  the  Duchy  bear  the  least  stamp  of  moral  reform. 
The  very  violence  used  forbids  our  applying  such  a  term  to 
the  work.  The  Catholic  worship  at  the  Cathedral  was  at 
once  abolished  and  replaced  by  Lutheran  services  and 
preaching.  The  priests  were  driven  into  exile,  the  bishop 
alone  being  permitted  to  carry  on  "  his  godless  papistical 
abominations  and  practices  openly  in  his  own  residence  " 
(the  Castle  of  Stolpen).  At  the  demand  of  the  Witten- 
bergers  the  professors  at  Leipzig  University  who  refused  to 
conform  to  the  Lutheran  doctrine  were  dismissed.  Melanch- 
thon  insisted,  that,  if  they  refused  to  hold  their  tongues, 
they  must  be  driven  out  of  the  land  as  "  blasphemers."  The 
new  preachers  publicly  abused  the  friends,  clerical  and  lay, 
of  the  late  Duke  to  such  an  extent  that  the  Estates  were 
moved  to  make  a  formal  complaint.  Churches  and 
monasteries  were  plundered  and  the  sacred  vessels  melted 

Maurice,  the  son  of  Duke  Henry,  who  succeeded  in  1541, 

1  Janssen,  "Hist,  of  the  German  People"  (Engl.  Trans.),  vi.,  p.  54. 

2  "  Brief wechsel,"  12,  p.  231. 

3  Cp.  Janssen,  ib. 


showed   himself  even   more   violent   and   relentless   in  ex- 
tirpating the  olden  system. 

The  profoundly  immoral  character  of  this  reformation, 
the  interference  with  the  people's  freedom  of  conscience, 
the  destruction  of  religious  traditions  which  the  peaceable 
inhabitants  had  received  a  thousand  years  before  from  holy 
missionaries  and  bishops,  merely  on  the  strength  of  the 
new  doctrines  of  a  man  who  claimed  to  have  a  better  Gospel 
— all  this  was  expressly  sanctioned  and  supported  by 

He  wrote  in  a  memorandum  on  the  proceedings  :  "  There  is 
not  much  room  here  for  discussion.  If  my  gracious  Duke  Henry 
wishes  to  have  the  Evangel,  then  His  Highness  must  abolish 
idolatry,  or  not  afford  it  protection  .  .  .  otherwise  the  wrath 
of  heaven  will  be  too  great."  As  a  "  sovereign  appointed  by 
God  "  the  ruler  "  owed  it  to  Him  to  put  down  such  horrible, 
blasphemous  idolatry  by  every  means  in  his  power."  This  was 
nothing  more  than  "  defending  Christ  and  damning  the  devil  "  ; 
an  example  had  been  given  by  the  "  former  kings  of  Juda  and 
Israel,"  who  had  abolished  "  Baal  and  all  his  idolatry,"  and  later 
by  Constantine,  Theodosius  and  Gratian.  For  it  was  as  much 
the  duty  of  princes  and  lords  as  of  other  people  to  serve  God  and 
the  Lord  Christ  to  the  utmost  of  their  power.  Away,  therefore, 
with  the  abbots  and  bishops  "  since  they  are  determined  to  remain 
blasphemers  .  .  .  they  are  blind  leaders  of  the  blind  ;  God's 
wrath  has  come  upon  them  ;  hence  we  must  help  in  the  matter 
as  much  as  we  can."1 

Yet  the  Christian  emperors  here  appealed  to  could  have  fur- 
nished Luther  with  an  example  of  forbearance  towards  heathen 
Rome  and  its  religious  works  of  art  which  might  well  have  shamed 
him.  He  did  not  know  that  at  Rome  the  defacing  and  damaging 
of  temples,  altars  or  statues  was  most  strictly  forbidden,  and  that, 
for  instance,  Pope  Damasus  (f384)  had  been  formally  assured  by 
the  city-prefect  that  never  had  a  Christian  Roman  appeared 
before  his  tribunal  on  such  a  charge.2  Elsewhere,  however,  such 
acts  of  violence  were  not  unknown. 

Luther's  spirit  of  persecution  was  quite  different  from  the 
spirit  which  animated  those  Roman  emperors  who  came  over  to 
Christianity.  It  was  their  desire  to  hasten  the  end  of  an  out- 
worn religion  of  superstition,  immorality  and  idolatry.  With 
them  it  was  a  question  of  defending  and  furthering  a  religion 
sent  from  heaven  to  renew  the  world  and  which  had  convincingly 
proved  the  divinity  of  its  mission  by  miracles,  by  the  blood  of 
martyrs  and  by  the  striking  holiness  of  so  many  thousands  of 

1  July,  1539,  "  Brief wechsel,"  12,  p.  188. 

2  Cp.  my  "  Hist,  of  Rome  and  the  Popes  in  the  Middle  Ages  " 
(Engl.  Trans.,  i.,  pp.  9-26). 


It  was  against  the  faithful  adherents  of  this  very  religion 
that,  on  the  pretext  of  the  outward  corruption  under  which 
it  groaned,  Luther  perpetrated  so  many  acts  of  violence 
regardless  of  the  testimony  of  a  thousand  years  of  beneficent 
labours.  His  ingratitude  towards  the  achievements  of  the 
olden  Church  in  the  education  of  the  nations,  his  deliberate 
ignoring  of  the  great  qualities  which  distinguished  her  and 
in  his  day  could  still  have  enabled  her  to  carry  out  her  own 
moral  regeneration  from  within,  are  incompatible  with  his 
having  been  a  true  moral  reformer. 

The  Aims  of  the  Reformation  and  the  Currents  of  the  Age 

Looking  at  the  state  of  the  case  from  the  standpoint  of  the 
olden  Catholic  Church  a  closer  historical  examination  shows 
that  what  she  needed  above  all  was  a  strengthening  of  her 
interior  organisation.1 

In  view  of  the  tendency  to  split  up  into  separate  States, 
in  view  of  the  decay  of  that  outward  bond  of  the  nations 
under  the  Empire  which  had  once  been  her  stay,  and  of  the 
rise  of  all  sorts  of  new  elements  of  culture  requiring  to  be 
exploited  for  the  glory  of  God  and  the  spiritual  betterment 
of  mankind,  a  consolidation  of  the  Church's  structure  was 
essential.  The  Primacy  indeed  was  there,  exercised  its 
functions  and  was  recognised,  but  what  was  needed  was 
a  more  direct  recognition  of  a  purified  Papacy.  The  bond 
of  unity  between  the  nations  within  the  Church  needed  to 
be  more  clearly  put  in  evidence.  This  could  best  be  done  by 
allowing  the  significance  of  a  voluntary  submission  to  the 
authority  appointed  by  God,  and  of  the  Primacy,  to  sink 
more  deeply  into  the  consciousness  of  Christendom.  This 
was  all  the  more  called  for,  now  that  the  traditional  devotion 
to  Rome  had  suffered  so  much  owing  to  the  great  Schism 
of  the  West,  to  the  reforming  Councils  and  the  prevalence 
of  Gallican  ideas,  and  that  the  splendour  of  the  Papacy 
seemed  now  on  the  wane.  The  excessive  concern  of  the 
Popes  in  politics  and  the  struggle  they  had  waged  in  Italy 
in  the  effort  to  establish  themselves  more  securely  had  by  no 
means  contributed  to  increase  respect  for  the  power  of  the 
keys  in  its  own  peculiar  domain,  viz.  the  spiritual. 

1  In  what  follows  we  have  drawn  largely  on  J.  Wieser  (see  above, 
p.  124,  n.  1). 

128         LUTHER  THE  REFORMER 

Thus  any  reformer  seeking  to  improve  the  Church's 
condition  had  necessarily  to  face  this  task  first  of  all. — Many 
other  moral  requirements  arising  out  of  the  then  state  of 
society  had,  however,  also  to  be  borne  in  mind. 

It  was  necessary  to  counteract,  by  laying  stress  on  what 
had  been  handed  down,  the  false  subjectivism  and  universal 
scepticism  which  the  schools  of  philosophy  had  let  loose  on 
the  world  ;  also  to  oppose  the  cynicism,  lack  of  discipline 
and  love  of  destruction  which  characterised  Humanism,  by 
infusing  into  education  the  true  spirit  of  the  Church.  Both 
these  tasks  could,  however,  be  accomplished  only  by  men 
filled  with  respect  for  tradition  who  while  on  the  one  hand 
broad-mindedly  accepting  the  new  learning,  i.e.  without 
questioning  or  distrusting  reason  and  its  rights,  on  the  other 
hand  possessed  the  power  and  the  will  to  spiritualise  the 
new  culture.  The  disruptive  tendency  of  the  nations,  the 
counterpart  in  international  politics  of  the  prevalent  in- 
dividualism, required  to  be  corrected  by  laying  stress  on 
the  underlying  common  ground.  The  undreamt-of  enlarge- 
ment of  the  Church  through  the  discovery  of  new  lands  had 
to  be  met  by  organisations,  the  members  of  which  were 
filled  with  love  of  self-denial  and  zeal  for  souls.  At  the  same 
time  the  materialism,  which  was  a  consequence  of  the  great 
increase  of  wealth  brought  from  foreign  lands,  had  to  be 
checked.  To  oppose  the  alarming  growth  of  Turkish  power 
it  was  necessary  to  preach  self-sacrifice,  manly  courage  and 
above  all  Christian  unity  amongst  those  in  power,  amongst 
those  who  in  former  times  had  sallied  forth  against  the  East 
strong  in  the  feeling  of  being  one  family  in  the  faith.  A  still 
worse  foe  to  Christian  society  was  to  be  found  in  moral 
discouragement  and  exhaustion  ;  there  was  need  of  a  new 
spirit  to  awaken  the  motive  force  of  religious  life  and  to 
stir  men  to  a  more  active  use  of  the  means  of  grace. 

If  we  compare  the  moral  aims  and  motives  which  inspired 
Luther's  reformation,  with  the  great  needs  of  the  times,  as 
just  described,  we  cannot  fail  to  see  how  far  short  he  fell  of 
the  requirements. 

Most  of  the  aims  indicated  were  quite  strange  to  him. 
Judging  from  the  standpoint  of  the  olden  Church,  he 
frequently  sought  the  very  opposite  of  what  was  required. 
Some  few  instances  may  be  cited. 

So   little   did   Luther's   reformation  tend  to  realise  the 


sublime  moral  principle  of  the  union  and  comradeship  of 
the  nations,  that,  on  the  contrary,  he  encouraged  national- 
ism and  separatist  tendencies  even  in  Church  matters.  Where 
his  idea  of  a  National  Church  prevailed,  there  the  strongest 
bond  of  union  disappeared  completely.1  The  more  the 
authority  of  the  Empire  was  subverted  by  the  separatists, 
by  religious  Leagues  and  violent  inroads  of  princes  and 
sovereign  towns  within  the  Empire,  the  more  the  idea  of 
unity,  which  at  one  time  had  been  so  great  a  power  for 
good,  had  to  suffer.  He  complained  that  the  nations  and 
races  were  as  unfriendly  to  each  other  as  devils.  But  for 
him,  the  rude  Saxon,  to  abuse  all  who  dwelt  outside  his 
borders  in  the  most  unmeasured  terms,  and  to  pour  out  the 
vials  of  his  wrath  and  vituperation  on  the  Latin  nations 
because  they  were  Catholic  could  hardly  be  regarded  as 
conducive  to  better  harmony.  When  he  persistently 
declared  in  his  writings  and  sermons  that  the  real  Turks 
were  to  be  found  at  home,  or  when  he  fanned  the  flames  of 
fraternal  hatred  against  the  Papists  within  the  Fatherland, 
such  action  could  scarcely  promote  a  more  effectual  resist- 
ance to  the  danger  looming  in  the  East.  The  Bible,  accord- 
ing to  him,  was  to  serve  as  the  means  of  uniting  the  people 
of  God.  He  flung  it  amongst  the  people  at  a  time  when 
everything  was  seething  with  excitement ;  yet  he  himself, 
in  spite  of  all  his  praise  of  Bible  study,  was  moved  to 
execrate  the  results.  It  seemed,  so  he  declared,  as  though 
it  had  been  done  merely  "  in  order  that  each  one  might 
bore  a  hole  where  his  snout  happened  to  be."2 

As  to  subjectivism,  the  dominant  evil  of  the  age,  he  him- 
self carried  it  to  its  furthest  limits,  relentlessly  condemning 
everywhere  whatever  did  not  appeal  to  him  and  exalting 
his  personal  views  and  feelings  into  a  regular  law  ;  sub- 
jectivism pervades  and  spoils  his  whole  theology,  and,  in 
the  domain  of  ethics,  puts  both  personality  and  conscience 
on  a  new  and  very  questionable  basis.3  The  subjective 
principle  as  used  by  him  and  exalted  into  an  axiom,  might 
be  invoked  equally  by  any  religious  faction  for  its  own  ends. 
We  need  only  recall  Luther's  theory  of  the  lonely  isolation 
of  the  individual  in  the  matter  of  faith. 

1  Wieser  rightly  points  out  that  Luther  claimed  above  all  to  be  a 
"  National  Prophet  "  ;  he  was  fond  of  saying  that  he  had  brought  the 
Gospel  "to  the  Saxons,"  or  "  to  the  Germans."    lb.,  8,  pp.  143  f.,  356. 

2  lb.,  8,  p.  352.  3  Above,  pp.  3  ff.  and  66  ff. 

v. — K 


Again,  if  that  transition  period  between  mediaeval  and 
modern  times  was  suffering  from  moral  and  religious 
exhaustion  and  was  inclined  to  be  pessimistic  concerning 
spiritual  goods,  and  if,  for  its  moral  reform,  what  was 
needed  was  a  leader  deeply  imbued  with  faith  in  revelation, 
able  by  the  very  strength  of  his  faith  to  arouse  the  world  of 
his  day,  and  to  inspire  the  lame  and  timid  with  enthusiasm 
and  delight  in  the  ancient  treasures  of  religion — then,  again, 
one  is  forced  to  ask  whether  such  a  man  as  Luther,  even 
apart  from  his  new  and  erroneous  doctrines,  had  the  requi- 
site strong  and  overbearing  devotion  to  supernatural 
truths  ?  Is  it  not  Luther  who  speaks  so  often  of  the  weak- 
ness of  his  faith,  of  his  doubts  and  his  inward  trials,  and  who, 
in  order  to  reassure  himself,  declares  that  everyone,  even 
the  Apostles,  the  martyrs  and  the  saints,  were  acquainted 
with  the  like  ? 

Not  only  did  he  not  fight  against  pessimism,  but,  as  the 
years  went  by,  he  even  built  it  into  a  truly  burdensome 
system.  Towards  the  end  of  his  life,  owing  both  to  his 
theories  and  to  his  experiences,  he  became  a  living  embodi- 
ment of  dejection,  constituting  himself  its  eloquent  advocate. 
His  view  of  the  history  of  the  kingdom  of  Christ  was  the 
gloomiest  imaginable.  Everywhere  he  saw  the  power  of 
the  devil  predominant  throughout  the  whole  course  of  the 
world's  history. 

Not  only  is  everything  in  the  world  outside  of  Christ  Satanic, 
but  even  the  ancient  people  of  God,  chosen  with  a  view  to  the 
coming  Redeemer,  according  to  Luther,  "  raged  and  stormed  " 
against  the  faith.  But  "  the  fury  of  the  Jews  "  was  exceeded  by 
the  "  malice "  which  began  to  insinuate  itself  into  the  first 
Church  not  very  long  after  its  foundation.  What  the  Jews  did 
was  "  but  a  joke  and  mere  child's  play  "  compared  with  the  cor- 
ruption of  the  Christian  religion  by  means  of  "  human  ordinances, 
councils  and  Papistry."  Hardly  had  the  light  enkindled  by  Christ 
begun  to  shine  before  it  gradually  flickered  out,  until  lighted  again 
by  Luther.  In  the  East  prevailed  the  rule  of  the  Turks,  those 
devils  incarnate,  whilst  the  West  groaned  under  the  Papacy, 
which  far  exceeds  even  the  Islam  in  devilry.1 

His  pessimism  sees  the  origin  of  the  corruption  in  the  Church 
in  the  fact,  that,  already  in  the  first  centuries,  "  the  devil  had 
broken  into  Holy  Scripture  and  made  such  a  disturbance  as  to 
give  rise  to  many  heresies."  To  counteract  these  the  Christians 
surrendered  themselves  to  human  ordinances  ;    "  they  knew  of 

1  Cp.  Wieser,  ib.,  8,  p.  353. 


no  other  way  out  of  the  difficulty  than  to  set  up  a  multitude  of 
Councils  side  by  side  with  Scripture."  "  In  short,  the  devil  is 
too  clever  and  powerful  for  us  ;  everywhere  he  is  an  obstacle  and 
a  hindrance.  If  we  go  to  Scripture,  he  arouses  so  much  dissension 
and  strife  that  we  grow  sick  of  the  Word  and  afraid  to  trust  to 
it.  Yet  if  we  rely  on  human  councils  and  counsels,  we  lose 
Scripture  altogether  and  become  the  devil's  own,  body  and  soul." 
This  evil  was  not  solely  due  to  setting  up  human  ordinances  in 
the  place  of  Scripture,  but  also  to  the  preference  shown  in  theory 
to  works  which  arose  when  people  saw,  that  "  works  or  deeds  did 
not  follow  "  from  the  preaching  of  the  Apostles,  "  as  they  should 
have  done."  "  Hence  the  new  disciples  set  to  work  to  improve 
upon  the  Master's  building  and  proceeded  to  confuse  two  different 
things,  viz.  works  and  faith.  This  scandal  has  been  a  hindrance 
to  the  new  doctrine  of  faith  from  the  beginning  even  to  the  present 

From  all  this  one  would  rather  gather  that  the  fault  lay  more 
in  the  nature  of  Christianity  than  in  the  devil. 

Luther's  pessimistic  tendency  also  expresses  itself  in  the 
conviction,  that  it  was  the  "  gruesome,  frightful  and  boundless 
anger  of  God  "  that  was  the  cause  of  the  desolation  of  Christen- 
dom during  so  many  centuries,  though  he  assigns  no  reason  for 
such  anger  on  the  part  of  God. 

His  gloomy  view  of  the  world,  exercising  an  increasing  domina- 
tion over  him,  led  him  to  take  refuge  in  fatalistic  grounds  for 
consolation,  which,  according  to  his  wont,  he  even  attributed  to 
Christ  who  had  inspired  him  with  them.  Haunted  by  his  dia- 
bolical visions  he  finally  became  more  deeply  imbued  with 
pessimism  than  any  present-day  representative  of  the  pessimistic 

"  Here  you  are  living,"  so  he  writes  to  one  of  his  friends,  "  in 
the  devil's  own  den  of  murderers,  surrounded  by  dragons  and 
serpents.  Of  two  things  one  must  happen  ;  either  the  people 
become  devils  to  you,  or  you  yourself  become  a  devil."1 

Formerly  he  had  looked  forward  with  some  courage  and 
confidence  to  the  possibility  of  a  change.  But  even  his 
courage,  particularly  at  critical  junctures,  for  instance,  at 
the  Coburg  and  during  the  Diet  of  Augsburg,  more  resembled 
the  wanton  rashness  of  a  man  who  seeks  to  set  his  own  fears 
at  defiance.  At  any  rate  his  peculiar  form  of  courage  in 
faith  was  not  calculated  to  give  a  fresh  stimulus,  amid  the 
general  relaxation  and  exhaustion,  to  religious  enthusiasm 
and  the  spirit  of  cheerful  self-sacrifice  for  the  highest  aims 
of  human  life.  On  the  other  hand,  his  success  was  largely 
due  to  the  discouragement  so  widely  prevalent.  We  meet 
with  a  mournful  echo  of  this  discouragement  in  the  sayings 

1  Wieser,  ib.,  8,  p.  387. 


of  certain  contemporary  Princes  of  the  Church,  who  seem 
to  have  given  up  everything  for  lost.  Many  who  had  been 
surprised  and  overwhelmed  by  the  sudden  bursting  of  the 
storm  were  victims  of  this  depression. 

Luther  not  only  failed  to  direct  the  unfavourable  ten- 
dencies of  the  age  into  better  channels,  but  even  to  some 
extent  allowed  himself  to  be  carried  away  by  them. 

Even  so  strong  a  man  as  he,  was  keenly  affected  by  the 
spirit  of  the  age.  In  some  respects  it  is  true  his  work 
exercised  a  lasting  effect  on  the  prevalent  currents,  but  in 
others  he  allowed  his  work  to  be  dominated  by  the  spirit 
then  abroad.  To  the  nominalistic  school  of  Occam  he  owed 
not  only  certain  of  his  doctrines  but  also  his  disputatious 
and  subversive  ways,  and  his  method  of  ignoring  the  general 
connection  between  the  truths  of  faith  and  of  making  the 
most  of  the  grounds  for  doubt.  Pseudo-mystic  influences 
explain  both  his  subjectivism  and  those  quietistic  princi- 
ples, traces  of  which  are  long  met  with  in  his  writings. 
Humanism  increased  his  aversion  to  the  old-time  scholasti- 
cism, his  animosity  to  the  principles  of  authority  and 
tradition,  his  contempt  for  all  things  mediaeval,  his  lack  of 
appreciation  for,  and  unfairness  to,  the  religious  orders  no 
less  than  the  paradox  and  arrogance  of  his  language.  A 
strain  of  coarse  materialism  runs  through  the  Renaissance. 
In  Luther,  says  Paulsen,  "  we  are  reminded  of  the  Renais- 
sance by  a  certain  coarse  naturalism  with  which  the  new 
Evangel  is  spiced,  and  which,  in  his  attacks  on  celibacy 
and  the  religious  life,  occasionally  leads  Luther  to  speak  as 
though  to  abstain  from  carnal  works  was  to  rebel  against 
God's  Will  and  command."1  To  the  tendency  of  the 
Princes  to  exalt  themselves  Luther  yielded,  even  at  the 
expense  of  the  liberties  and  well-being  of  the  people,  simply 
because  he  stood  in  need  of  the  rulers'  support.  The  spirit 
of  revolt  against  the  hierarchy  which  was  seething  amongst 
the  masses  and  even  among  many  of  the  theologians,  and 
which  the  disorders  censured  in  the  Gravamina  of  the 
various  Diets  had  brought  almost  to  the  point  of  explosion, 
carried  Luther  away  ;  even  in  those  writings  which  con- 
temporaries and  aftercomers  were  to  praise  as  his  greatest 
achievement  and,  in  fact,  in  his  whole  undertaking  in  so  far 
1  "  Gesch.  des  gelehrten  Unterrichts,"  l2,  1896,  p.  174. 


as  it  involved  separation  from  Rome,  he  was  simply  following 
the  trend  of  his  time. 

8.  The  Church  Apart  of  the  True  Believers 

Luther's  sad  experiences  in  establishing  a  new  Church 
led  him  for  several  years  to  cherish  a  strange  idea  ;  his  then 
intention  was  to  unite  the  true  believers  into  a  special  band 
and  to  restrict  the  preaching  of  the  Gospel  to  these  small 
congregations  which  would  then  represent  the  real  Church. 

This  idea  of  his  of  gathering  together  the  true  Christians 
has  already  been  referred  to  cursorily  elsewhere,1  but  it  is 
of  such  importance  that  it  may  well  be  dealt  with  somewhat 
more  in  detail. 

Luther's  Theory  of  the  Church  Apart  prior  to  1526 

On  the  whole  the  idea  which  Luther,  previous  to  1526, 
expressed  over  and  over  again  as  clearly  as  could  be  desired 
and  never  rejected  later,  viz.  of  uniting  certain  chosen 
Christians — the  true  believers — in  a  "  congregation  apart  " 
and  of  regarding  the  remainder,  i.e.  the  ordinary  members 
of  the  flock  which  followed  him,  or  popular  Church  as  it  was 
termed,  as  a  mere  lump  still  to  be  kneaded,  gives  us  a  deep 
insight  into  the  development  which  his  conception  of  the 
Church  underwent  and  into  his  opinion  of  the  position  of  his 
congregations  generally.  The  idea  was  an  outcome  more  of 
circumstances  than  of  reflection,  more  a  fanciful  expedient 
than  a  consequence  of  his  theories  ;  thus  it  was  that  it  suffered 
shipwreck  on  the  outward  conditions  which  soon  showed 
that  the  plan  was  impossible  of  realisation.  It  really 
originated  in  the  moral  disorders  rampant  in  the  new 
Church,  particularly  at  Wittenberg.  So  few  of  those  who 
followed  him  allowed  their  hearts  to  be  touched  by  the 
Evangel,  and  yet  all,  none  the  less,  claimed  not  merely  to 
be  called  Evangelicals  but  even  to  share  in  the  Supper. 
Luther  saw  that  this  state  of  things  was  compromising  the 
good  name  of  the  work  he  had  started. 

After  the  refusal  of  the  Princes  and  nobles  to  listen  to  his 
appeal  to  amend  the  state  of  Christendom,  he  determined 
to  take  his  stand  on  the  congregational  principle.    He  fondly 

1   See  above,  vol.  iii.,  p.  25  ff. 


expected  that,  thanks  to  the  supposed  inward  power  of 
reform  in  the  new  communities,  all  his  proposals  would  soon 
be  put  into  execution,  the  old  system  of  Church  government 
swept  away  and  a  new  order  established  more  in  accordance 
with  his  views.  Hence  in  the  writing  to  the  magistrates  and 
congregation  of  Prague,  "  De  instituendis  ministris  ecclesice  " 
(Nov.,  1523)?  which,  without  delay,  he  caused  to  be  trans- 
lated into  German,1  he  strove  to  show,  how,  everywhere, 
the  new  Church  system  was  to  be  established  from  top  to 
bottom  by  the  selection  of  pastors  by  members  of  the 
congregation  filled  with  faith  ("  Us  qui  credunt,  hccc  scri- 
bimus  ").2  According  to  this  writing,  the  Visitors  and 
Archbishop  yet  to  be  chosen  by  the  zealous  clergy,  were  to 
live  only  for  the  sake  of  the  pastors  and  the  congregations, 
whom  they  had  to  better  by  means  of  the  Word.  The 
faithful  congregations  "  will  indeed  be  weak  and  sinful  " — 
Luther  had  no  hope  of  setting  up  a  Church  of  the  perfect — 
but,  "  seeing  they  have  the  Word,  they  are  at  least  not 
ungodly ;  they  sin  indeed,  but,  far  from  denying,  they  confess 
the  Word."3  "  Luther's  optimism,"  says  Paul  Drews, 
"  saw  already  whole  parishes  converted  into  congregations 
of  real  Christians,  realising  anew  the  true  Church  of  the 
Apostolic  ideal."4 

In  the  same  year,  1523,  on  Maundy  Thursday,  he  for  the  first 
time  spoke  publicly,  in  a  sermon  delivered  at  Wittenberg,  of  the 
plan  he  had  long  cherished  of  segregating  the  "  believing " 
Christians  from  the  common  herd .  This  was  when  publishing  a  new 
rule  on  the  receiving  of  the  Supper,  making  Penance,  or  at  least 
a  general  confession  of  sin,  a  condition  of  reception.  In  future 
all  were  no  longer  to  be  allowed  to  approach  the  Sacrament 
indiscriminately,  but  only  those  who  were  true  Christians  ; 
hence  communion  was  to  be  preceded  by  an  examination  in 
faith,  i.e.  by  the  asking  of  certain  questions  on  the  subject.  The 
five  questions,  and  the  answers,  which  were  printed  with  a 
preface  by  Bugenhagen,  practically  constituted  an  assurance  of 
a  sort  to  the  dispensers  of  the  Sacrament  that  the  communicants 

1  Vol.  ii.,  p.  111.  "  Werke,"  Weim.  ed.,  12,  p.  169  ff. ;  "  Opp.  lat. 
var.,"  6,  p.  494  sqq. 

2  "  Werke,"  ib.,  p.  192  =  p.  528.  3  lb.,  p.  194-532. 

4  "  Entsprach  das  Staatskirchentum  dem  Ideale  Luthers  ?  " 
("  Zeitschr.  f.  Theol.  und  Kirche,"  1908,  Suppl.,  p.  38.)  The  striking 
new  works  of  Hermelink,  K.  Miiller,  etc.,  have  already  been  referred 
to  elsewhere.  In  addition  we  must  mention  K.  Holl,  "  Luther  und  das 
landesherrliche  Kirchenregiment "  ("Zeitschr.  f.  Theol.  und  Kirche," 
1911,  Suppl.),  where  the  writer  takes  a  view  of  the  much-discussed 
question  different  from  that  of  K.  Miiller. 


approached  from  religious  motives  and  that  they  received  the 
Body  and  Blood  of  Christ  as  a  sign  of  the  forgiveness  of  their 

"  It  must  be  a  faith,"  says  Luther  in  this  sermon,  "  which  God 
works  in  you,  and  you  must  know  and  feel  that  God  is  working 
this  in  you."  But  did  it  come  to  a  "  serious  self-examination  you 
would  soon  see  how  few  are  Christians  and  how  few  there  would 
be  who  would  go  to  the  Sacrament.  But  it  might  be  arranged  and 
brought  about,  as  I  greatly  wish,  for  those  in  every  place  who 
really  believe  to  be  set  apart  and  distinguished  from  the  others. 
I  should  like  to  have  done  this  long  ago,  but  it  was  not  feasible  ; 
for  it  has  not  been  sufficiently  preached  and  urged  as  yet." 
Meanwhile,  instead  of  "  separating  "  the  true  believers  (later  on 
he  speaks  of  private  sermons  for  them  to  be  preached  in  the 
Augustinian  minster)  he  will  still  address  his  discourse  to  all, 
even  though  it  be  not  possible  to  know  "  who  is  really  touched 
by  it,"  i.e.  who  really  accepts  the  Gospel  in  faith  ;  but  it  was 
thus  that  Christ  and  the  Apostles  had  preached,  "  to  the  masses, 
to  everyone;  .  .  .  whoever  can  pick  it  up,  let  him  do  so.  .  .  . 
But  the  Sacrament  ought  not  thus  to  be  scattered  broadcast 
amongst  the  people  in  the  way  the  Pope  did."1 

In  the  "  Formula  missce  "  from  about  the  beginning  of  Dec,  1523, 
he  again  speaks  of  the  examination  of  the  communicants,  and 
adds  that  it  was  enough  that  this  should  take  place  once  a  year, 
while,  in  the  case  of  educated  people,  it  might  well  be  omitted 
altogether  ;  the  examination  by  the  "  bishop  "  (i.e.  the  pastor) 
must  however  extend  also  to  the  "  life  and  conduct  "  of  the 
communicants.  "  If  he  sees  a  man  addicted  to  fornication, 
adultery,  drunkenness,  gambling,  usury,  cursing  or  any  other 
open  vice  he  is  to  exclude  him  from  the  Supper  unless  he  has 
given  proof  of  amendment."  Moreover,  those  admitted  to  the 
Sacrament  are  to  be  assigned  a  special  place  at  the  altar  in  order 
that  they  may  be  seen  by  all  and  their  moral  conduct  more  easily 
judged  of  all.  He  would,  however,  lay  down  no  commands  on 
such  matters,  but  leave  everything,  as  was  his  wont,  to  the  good 
will  of  free  Christian  men.2 

The  introduction  of  the  innovation  was,  moreover,  to  depend 
entirely  on  the  consent  of  the  congregation,  agreeably  with  his 
theory  of  their  rights.  This  he  said  in  a  sermon  of  Dec.  6,  1523. 3 
It  was  probably  in  that  same  month  that  the  plan  was  tried. 

These  preliminary  attempts  at  the  formation  of  an 
assembly  of  true  Christians  were  no  more  crowned  with 
success  than  his  plan  for  the  relief  of  the  poor  by  means  of 

1  "  Werke,"  Weim.  ed.,  12,  p.  484  f. ;  Erl.  ed.,  II2,  p.  205  f.  Cp.  ib., 
p.  481  =  201  f.,  and  Erl.  ed.,  II2,  p.  82  f. 

2  lb.,  Weim.  ed.,  12,  p.  215  f.  ;  "  Opp.  lat.  var.,"  7,  13.  On  the 
"  Formula  missae,"  see  below,  xxix.,  9. 

3  lb.,  Weim.  ed.,  11,  p.  210.  The  Latin  version  reads  :  "  Si 
Dominus  dederit  in  cor  vestrum,  ut  simul  probetis,"  etc. 

136         LUTHER  THE  REFORMER 

the  so-called  common  box,  or  his  efforts  to  establish  a  new 
system  of  penalties.  Hence  he  declared,  that,  owing  to  the 
Wittenbergers'  want  of  preparation,  he  was  obliged  to  put 
off  its  execution  "  until  our  Lord  God  forms  some  Chris- 
tians." For  the  time  being  "  we  have  not  got  the  necessary 
persons."  In  1524  he  told  them  that  "  neither  charity  nor 
the  Gospel  could  make  any  headway  amongst  them."1  In 
the  Wittenberg  congregation  he  could  "  not  yet  discern  a 
truly  Christian  one."2  He  nevertheless  permitted  the  whole 
congregation  to  take  its  share,  when,  in  the  autumn  of  1523, 
the  town-council  appointed  Bugenhagen  to  the  office  of 
parish-priest  ;  this  he  did  agreeably  with  his  ideas  concerning 
the  rights  of  the  congregation. 

Meanwhile,  however,  the  ideal  of  a  whole  parish  of  true 
believers  seemed  about  to  be  realised  elsewhere.  Full  of 
apparent  zeal  for  the  new  Evangel,  the  magistrates  and 
burghers  of  Leisnig  on  the^  Mulde  drafted  a  scheme  for  a 
"  common  box  "  and  begged  Luther  to  send  them  some- 
thing confirming  their  right  to  appoint  a  minister — the  town 
having  refused  to  accept  the  lawfully  presented  Catholic 
priest — and  also  a  reformed  order  for  Divine  worship.  The 
instructive  incident  has  already  been  mentioned.3 

Luther  seized  eagerly  on  the  opportunity  of  calling  into 
existence  at  Leisnig  a  community  which  might  in  turn  prove 
a  model  elsewhere.  From  the  establishment  of  such 
congregations  he  believed  there  would  result  a  system  of 
new  Churches  independent  indeed,  though  supported  by 
the  authorities,  which  might  then  take  the  place  of  the 
Papal  Church  now  thought  on  the  point  of  expiry.  The 
idealistic  dreams  with  which,  as  his  writings  show,  the 
proceedings  at  Leisnig  filled  his  mind  would  seem  to  have 
been  responsible  both  for  his  project  for  Wittenberg  and 
for  his  letter  to  the  Bohemians  previously  referred  to.  The 
fact  that  they  belonged  to  the  same  time  is  at  any  rate 
a  remarkable  coincidence. 

He  promised  the  town-council  of  Leisnig  (Jan.  29,  1523) 
that  he  would  have  their  scheme  for  the  establishment  of 
a  common  fund  printed, 4  and  this  he  did  shortly  after,  adding 
an  introduction  of  his  own.5 

1  lb.,  12,  p.  693  ;  cp.  697.  On  the  Wittenberg  Poor  Box  see  below, 
vol.  vi.   xxxv.,  4.  2  P.  Drews,  p.  55. 

3  Vol.  ii.,  p.  113  ;  cp.  vol.  iii.,  p.  27.  4  "  Brief wechsel,"  4,  p.  70. 

5  "  Werke,"  Weim.  ed.,  12,  p.  11  ft  ;   Erl.  ed.,  22,  p.  106  ff. 


In  the  introduction  he  expresses  his  conviction  that  true 
Christianity,  the  right  belief  such  as  he  desiderated,  had  taken 
up  its  abode  with  them.  For  had  they  not  made  known  their 
willingness  to  enforce  strict  discipline  at  Leisnig  ?  "  By  God's 
grace,"  he  tells  them,  "  you  are  yourselves  enriched  by  God," 
hence  you  have  "no  need  of  my  small  powers."  Still,, he  was 
far  from  loath  to  draw  up  for  them  and  for  others,  too,  first  the 
writing  which  appeared  in  print  in  1523  (possibly  at  the  beginning 
of  March),  "Von  Ordenung  Gottes  Dienst  ynn  der  Gemeyne,"1 
and  then,  about  Easter,  1523,  another  booklet  destined  to  become 
particularly  famous  and  to  which  we  have  already  frequently 
referred,  "  Das  eyn  Christliche  Versamlung  odder  Gemeyne 
Recht  und  Macht  habe,  alle  Lere  zu  urteylen,"  etc.2 

In  the  first,  speaking  of  public  worship  "to  real,  heartfelt,  holy 
Christians,"  he  says  the  model  must  surely  be  sought  in  the 
"  apostolic  age  "  ;  at  least  the  clergy  and  the  scholars,  if  not  the 
whole  congregation,  were  to  assemble  daily,  and  on  Sundays  all 
were  to  meet  ;  then  follow  his  counsels — he  took  care  to  lay  down 
no  actual  rules — for  the  details  of  public  worship,  where  the 
Word  and  the  awakening  of  faith  were  to  be  the  chief  thing. 
These  matters  the  congregation  were  to  arrange  on  their  own 

The  second  booklet  lays  it  down  that  it  is  the  congregation  and 
not  the  bishops,  the  learned  or  the  councils  who  have  the  right 
and  duty  of  judging  of  the  preacher  and  of  choosing  a  true 
preacher  to  replace  him  who  does  not  proclaim  the  Word  of  God 
aright — needless  to  say,  regardless  of  the  rights  of  church 
patronage.  A  minority  of  true  "  Christians  "  is  at  liberty  to 
reject  the  parish  priest  and  appoint  a  new  one  of  the  right  kind, 
whom  it  then  becomes  their  duty  to  support.  Even  "  the  best 
preachers  "  might  not  be  appointed  by  the  bishops  or  patrons 
"  without  the  consent,  choice  and  call  of  the  congregation." — 
There  can  be  no  doubt,  that,  if  every  congregation  acted  as  was 
here  proposed,  this  would  have  spelt  the  doom  of  the  old  church 
system.  This  too  was  what  Luther's  vivid  fancy  anticipated 
from  the  power  of  that  Word  which  never  returns  empty-handed, 
though  he  preferred  simply  to  ignore  the  huge  inner  difficulties 
which  the  proposal  involved.  The  tidings  that  new  congregations 
and  town-councils  were  joining  his  cause  strengthened  him  in  his 
belief.  His  statements  then,  concerning  the  near  overthrow  of 
the  Papacy  by  the  mere  breath  of  Christ's  mouth,  are  in  part  to 
be  explained  by  this  frame  of  mind. 

At  Leisnig,  however,  events  did  not  in  the  least  justify  his 
sanguine  expectations. 

The  citizens  succeeded  in  making  an  end  of  their  irksome 
dependence  on  the  neighbouring  Cistercian  monastery,  and 

1  76.,  p.  35ff=153ff. 

2  lb.,  11,  p.  408  ff.=  22,  p.  141  ff.  "  Ordenug  eyns  gemeynen 
Hastens,"  1523.    On  the  date  cp.  Drews,  p.  43. 


the  town-council  promptly  sequestrated  all  the  belongings 
and  foundations  of  the  Church  ;  it  then  became  apparent, 
however,  that,  particularly  on  the  side  of  the  council, 
the  prevalent  feeling  was  anything  but  evangelical ;  the 
councillors,  for  instance,  refused  to  co-operate  in  the 
establishment  of  a  common  poor-box  or  to  apply  to  this 
object  the  endowments  it  had  appropriated.  Grave  dis- 
sensions soon  ensued  and  Luther  sought  in  vain  the  assist- 
ance of  the  Elector.  Of  any  further  progress  of  the  new 
religious-community  ideal  we  hear  nothing.  The  fact  is, 
the  fate  at  Leisnig  of  the  model  congregation  and  "  common 
fund  "  scheme  was  a  great  disappointment  to  Luther. 
Elsewhere,  too,  attempts  at  establishing  a  common  poor- 
box  were  no  less  unsuccessful.  Of  these,  however,  we  shall 
treat  later.1 

Luther's  next  detailed  statements  concerning  the 
44  assembly  of  true  Christians  "  are  met  in  1525.  Towards 
the  end  of  that  year  Caspar  Schwenckfeld,  a  representative 
of  the  innovations  in  Silesia,  visited  him,  and  various  theo- 
logical discussions  took  place  in  the  presence  of  Bugenhagen 
and  Jonas,2  of  which  Schwenckfeld  took  notes  which  have 
come  down  to  us.3  With  the  help  of  what  Luther  said 
then,  supplemented  by  some  later  explanations,  the  history 
of  the  remarkable  plan  can  be  followed  further. 

In  the  discussion  then  held  with  Schwenckfeld  the  latter 
voiced  his  conviction,  that  true  Christians  must  be  separated 
from  the  false,  "  otherwise  there  was  no  hope  "  of  improvement ; 
excommunication,  too,  must  "  ever  go  hand  in  hand  with  the 
Gospel,"  otherwise  "  the  longer  matters  went  on  the  worse  they 
would  get,  for  it  was  easy  to  see  the  trend  throughout  the  world  ; 
every  man  wanted  to  be  Evangelical  and  to  boast  of  the  name  of 
Christ.  To  this  he  [Luther]  replied  :  it  was  very  painful  to  him 
that  no  one  showed  any  sign  of  amendment  "  ;  lie  had,  however, 
already  taken  steps  concerning  the  separation  of  the  true  be- 
lievers and  had  announced  "  publicly  in  his  sermons  "  his  inten- 
tion of  keeping  a  "register  of  Christians"  and  of  having  a  watch 
set  over  their  conduct,  also  "  of  preaching  to  them  in  the  mon- 
astery "  while  a  "  curate  preached  to  the  others  in  the  parish."4 

1  See  below,  vol.  vi.,  xxxv.,  4.  2  Above,  p.  78  ff. 

3  "  Schwenckfelds  Epistolar,"  2,  2,  1570,  p.  39  fl  Cp.  K.  Ecke, 
"  Schwenckfeld,  Luther  und  der  Gedanke  einer  apostolischen  Refor- 
mation," 1911,  p.  101,  where  the  words  of  the  Epistolar,  pp.  24  and  39, 
are  given,  showing  that  Schwenckfeld  "  noted  down  the  whole  affair 
from  beginning  to  end  at  the  inn  while  it  was  still  fresh  in  his  memory." 

4  Of  these  steps  and  the  sermon  nothing  is  known. 


It  was  a  disgrace,  remarked  Luther,  how,  without  such  helps, 
everything  went  to  rack  and  ruin.  Not  even  half  a  gulden  had 
he  been  able  to  obtain  for  the  poor. 

Concerning  the  ban,  however,  "he  refused  to  give  a  reply  " 
even  when  repeatedly  pressed  by  Schwenckfeld ;  he  merely 
said  :  "  Yes,  dear  Caspar,  true  Christians  are  not  yet  so  plentiful  ; 
I  should  even  be  glad  to  see  two  of  them  together  ;  for  I  do  not 
feel  even  myself  to  be  one."    And  there  the  matter  rested.1 

Hence,  even  then,  he  still  had  a  quite  definite  intention  of 
forming  such  a  congregation  of  true  believers  at  Wittenberg.2 

During  the  last  months  of  1525  Luther  concluded  a  writing 
entitled  "  Deudsche  Messe  und  Ordnung  Gottis  Diensts,"  which 
was  published  in  1526,  in  which  he  speaks  at  length  of  the  strange 
scheme  which  was  ever  before  his  mind.  Its  reaction  on  his 
plans  for  Mass  and  Divine  worship  may  here  be  passed  over.3 
What  more  nearly  concerns  us  now  is  the  distinction  he  makes 
between  those  present  at  Divine  worship.  If  the  new  Mass,  so 
he  says,  "  is  held  publicly  in  the  churches  before  all  the  people  " 
many  are  present  "  who  as  yet  neither  believe  nor  are  Christians." 
In  the  popular  Church,  such  as  it  yet  is,  "  there  is  no  ordered  or 
clearly  cut  assembly  where  the  Christians  can  be  ruled  in  accord- 
ance with  the  Gospel  "  ;  to  them  worship  is  merely  "  a  public 
incentive  to  faith  and  Christianity."  It  would  be  a  different 
matter  if  we  had  the  true  Christians  assembled  together,  "  with 
their  names  registered  and  meeting  together  in  some  house  or 
other,"  where  prayer,  reading,  and  the  receiving  of  the  Sacrament 
would  be  assiduously  practised,  general  almsgiving  imposed  and 
"  penalties,  correction,  expulsion  or  the  ban  made  use  of  accord- 
ing to  the  law  of  Christ."  But  here  again  we  find  him  complaining  : 
"  I  have  not  yet  the  necessary  number  of  people  for  this,  nor  do 
I  see  many  who  are  desirous  of  trying  it."  "  Hence  until  Chris- 
tians take  the  Word  seriously,  find  their  own  legs  and  persevere," 
the  carrying  out  of  the  plan  must  be  delayed.  Nor  did  he  wish, 
so  he  says,  to  set  up  "  anything  new  in  Christendom."  As  he  put 
it  in  a  previous  sermon:  "It  is  perfectly  true  that  I  am  certain 
I  have  and  preach  the  Word,  and  am  called  ;  yet  I  hesitate  to 
lay  down  any  rules."4 

This  hesitation  cannot  be  explained  merely  by  the 
anxiety  to  which  he  himself  refers  incidentally  lest  com- 
mands should  arouse  the  spirit  of  opposition  and  give  rise 
to  "factions,"5  for  the  absence  of  authority  was  evident  ; 

1  ' '  Epistolar,"  ib.,  pp.  39,  43. 

2  "  Zeitschr.  f.  KG.,"  13,  p.  552  ff. 

3  See  below,  xxix.,  9.  The  writing  is  reprinted  in  "  Werke,"  Weim. 
ed.,  19,  p.  70  ff.  ;   Erl.  ed.,  22,  p.  227  ff. 

4  Sermon  of  Dec.  6,  1523,  ib.,  Weim.  ed.,  11,  p.  210. 

5  In  the  "  Deudsche  Messe,"  Weim.  ed.,  19,  p.  75  ;  Erl.  ed.,  22, 
p.  231  :  "In  order  that  no  faction  may  arise  as  though  I  had  done  it 
of  my  own  initiative." 


it  must  also  have  sprung  from  the  author's  own  sense  of  the 
indefiniteness  of  the  plan.  His  pious  wish  to  establish  an 
organisation  on  the  apostolic  model  was  not  conspicuous 
for  practical  insight,  however  great  the  stress  Luther  laid 
on  the  passages  he  regarded  as  authoritative  (2  Cor.  ix., 
1  Cor.  xiv.,  Mt.  xviii.  2,  and  Acts  vi.).  "  This  much  is 
clear,"  rightly  remarks  Drews,  "  that  Luther  was  uncertain 
and  wavered  in  the  details  of  his  plan.  He  had  but  little 
bent  to  sketch  out  organisations  even  in  his  head  ;  to  this 
he  did  not  feel  himself  called."1 

Others,  not  alone  from  the  ranks  of  such  as  inclined  to 
fanatism,  were  also  to  some  extent  to  blame  for  the  per- 
sistence with  which  he  continued  to  revert  to  this  pet  idea. 
Nicholas  Hausmann,  pastor  of  Zwickau,  and  an  intimate 
friend,  approached  him  at  the  end  of  1526  on  the  subject 
of  the  ban,  which  he  regarded  as  indispensable  for  the  cause 
of  order.  On  Jan.  10,  1527,  Luther  replied,  referring  him  to 
the  Visitation  which  the  Elector  had  promised  to  have  held. 
"  When  the  Churches  have  been  constituted  (w  constitutis 
ecclesiis  ')  by  it,  then  we  shall  be  able  to  try  excommunica- 
tion. What  can  you  hope  to  effect  so  long  as  everything  is 
in  such  disorder  ?  "2 

Here  we  reach  a  fresh  stage  in  the  efforts  to  establish 
a  new  system  of  Church  organisation.  Luther  waited  in 
vain  for  the  birth  of  the  ideal  community.  Everything 
remained  "  in  disorder."3  The  intervention  of  the  State 
introduced  in  the  Visitation  was,  however,  soon  to  establish 
an  organisation  and  thus  to  improve  discipline. 

The  Church  Apart  replaced  by  the  Popular  Church 
Supported  by  the  State 

Luther  hoped  much  from  the  Visitation  of  1527  ;  it  was  not 
merely  to  constitute  parishes  but  also  to  serve  the  cause  of  the 
"  assembly  of  Christians  "  and  of  discipline  ;  the  segregation 
of  the  true  believers  was  to  be  effected  within  the  parishes,  at  least 

1  "  Entsprach  des  Staatskirchentum  dem  Ideale  Luthers  ?  "  p.  65. 
Drews  adds  :  "  He  was  afraid  of  doing  something  contrary  to  God's 
will."  That  Luther  had  not  thought  out  the  matter  plainly  is  also 
stated  by  K.  Miiller  ("  Luther  und  Karlstadt,"  p.  121). 

2  "  Brief wechsel,"  6,  p.  10. 

3  As  late  as  June  26,  1533  ("  Brief  wechsel,"  9,  p.  317),  he  wrote  : 
"  In  hoc  scscido  tarn  turbido  et  nondum  satis  pro  recipienda  disciplina 
idoneo  non  ausim  consulere  tarn  subitam  innovationem."  Cp.  p.  142, 


when  the  parishes  were  not  prepared  to  go  over  as  a  whole  to  the 
true  Church,  as,  for  instance,  Leisnig  had  once  promised  to  do. 
Luther  again  wrote,  on  March  29,  1527,  to  Hausmann,  the 
zealous  Zwickau  Evangelical  :  "  We  hope  that  it  [the  '  assembly 
of  Christians  ']  will  come  about  through  the  Visitation."  Then, 
he  fancies,  "  Christians  and  non-Christians  would  no  longer  be 
found  side  by  side  "  as  at  the  ordinary  gatherings  in  church  ;  but, 
once  they  were  "  separated  and  formed  an  assembly  where  it  was 
the  custom  to  admonish,  reprove  and  punish,"  church  discipline 
could  soon  be  applied  to  individuals  too.1 

But  the  "  hope  "  remained  a  mere  hope  even  when  the  Visita- 
tion was  over. 

Nothing  whatever  is  known  of  any  further  attempt  of  Luther 
in  this  direction,  though,  as  Drews  points  out,  "  it  is  evident  that 
he  was  unable  to  understand  how  Christians  who  had  reached  the 
faith  could  fail  to  feel  themselves  impelled  to  assemble  in  com- 
munities organised  on  the  Apostolic  model."2  He  had  to  look 
on  helplessly  while  the  followers  of  the  new  preaching  formed 
a  great  congregation,  of  which  many  of  the  members  were,  as  he 
had  said,  "  not  Christians  at  all,"  and  whose  prayer-gatherings 
were  no  more  than  "  an  incentive  to  faith  and  Christianity." 
(Above,  p.  139.) 

In  Hesse  alone  had  steps  been  taken — independently  of  the 
Visitation  in  the  Saxon  Electorate  and  previous  to  it — to  bring 
about  a  condition  of  things  more  in  accordance  with  Luther's  ideal. 
Moreover,  Luther  himself  preferred  to  remain  entirely  neutral  in 
respect  of  this  novel  attempt,  destined  to  become  famous  in  the 
history  of  Protestant  church-organisation.  The  prime  mover  in 
the  Hessian  plan  was  the  preacher,  Lambert  of  Avignon,  an 
apostate  Friar  Minor  ;  his  draft  was  submitted  to  Landgrave 
Philip  by  a  Synod  held  at  Homberg  at  the  end  of  1526. 3  Philip 
forwarded  it  to  Luther  in  order  to  hear  his  opinion.  Among  the 
proposals  made  in  the  draft  were  the  following  :  After  preaching 
for  a  while  to  the  whole  of  the  people,  they  were  to  be  asked 
individually  whether  they  wished  to  join  the  assembly  of  true 
believers  and  submit  themselves  to  the  discipline  prevailing 
amongst  them  ;  those,  however  few  in  number,  who  give  in  their 
names  are  the  Christians  ;  as  for  the  others  they  must  be  looked 
upon  as  pagans  ;  the  former  have  their  meetings  and  choose 
their  pastors  because  it  is  the  duty  of  the  flock  to  decide  in  what 
voice  the  shepherds  shall  speak.  All  the  clergy  were  annually  to 
meet  the  delegates  of  the  congregations,  nobles  and  princes  in 
synod  and  to  elect  a  committee  and  three  Visitors  for  the  direction 
and  supervision  of  the  whole  Church  of  the  land ;  these  were  also 
to  ratify  the  election  of  all  the  clergy  chosen  by  the  people. 4 

1  "  Werke,"  Erl.  ed.,  53  ("  Brief wechsel,"  6,  p.  32),  p.  399. 

2  P.  67. 

3  The  plan  as  Kostlin-Kawerau,  2,  p.  47  f.,  rightly  points  out  had 
been  formed  "  mainly  on  elements  previously  brought  forward  by 

4  Reprinted  in  A.  L.  Richter,  "  Die  evang.  Kirchenordnungen  des 
16.  Jahrh.,"  1,  1846,  p.  56. 


Luther  advised  the  Landgrave  "  not  as  yet  to  allow  this  order 
to  appear  in  print,  for  I,"  he  adds,  "  dare  not  yet  be  so  bold  as  to 
introduce  so  great  a  number  of  laws  amongst  us  and  with  such 
high-sounding  words."  He  did  not,  however,  by  any  means 
reject  the  plan  absolutely.  On  the  contrary  he  writes,  that,  in 
his  opinion,  it  were  better  to  allow  the  project  to  grow  up  gradu- 
ally "  from  force  of  habit  "  ;  a  few  of  the  pastors,  "  say  one, 
three,  six,  or  nine  "  might  well  make  a  beginning  ;  otherwise 
they  were  sure  to  find  that  "  the  people  were  not  yet  ripe  for  it," 
and  that  "  much  would  have  to  be  altered."1 

As  Landgrave  Philip,  after  receiving  from  Luther  this  rather 
discouraging  reply,  proceeded  no  further,  the  "  plan  for  the 
realisation  of  Luther's  ideas  "  was  carried  stillborn  to  the  grave.2 
"  And  yet  it  was  the  only  practical  plan  which  at  all  corresponded 
with  the  theories  of  the  Reformer  prior  to  1525." 3  Later  on 
Philip  adopted  the  Saxon  Reformation-book  for  the  organising 
of  the  Church  of  Hesse. 

That  the  project  of  esoteric  congregations  of  true  believers 
still  survived  in  Luther's  mind  long  after,  in  spite  of  the 
consolidation  of  the  popular  Church  in  the  form  of  a  State 
Church,  is  plain  from  a  letter  of  his  on  June  26,  1533,  to 
Tilemann  Schnabel  and  the  other  Hessian  clergy  ("  episcopi 
Hassice  "),  again  sitting  in  assembly  at  Homberg.  Schnabel 
was  a  whilom  Provincial  of  the  Saxon  Augustinians  and 
had  taken  part  in  the  abortive  attempt  to  establish  a 
community  of  true  Christians  at  Leisnig  of  which  he  was 
pastor.  Finally,  want,  misery  and  his  own  instability  of 
character  drove  him  from  the  country.4  From  1526 
onwards  he  had  been  living  at  Alsfeld  in  Hesse.  The  new 
assembly  at  Homberg  had  submitted  to  Luther,  for  his 
approval,  the  draft  of  a  scheme  of  church  discipline,  most 
probably  inspired  by  Schnabel  himself.  Luther's  reply  is 
of  the  utmost  importance  for  the  understanding  of  his 
opinion  of  the  conditions  then  prevailing  in  the  Church.5 

He  is,  at  bottom,  quite  at  one  with  the  Hessian  preachers, 
but,  on  practical  grounds,  chiefly  on  account  of  the  lack  of 
the  "  veri  Christiani"  he  rejects  the  well-meant  proposals 
as  too  far-reaching  and  incapable  of  execution. 

1  Jan.  7,  1527.     "  Werke,"  Erl.  ed.,  56,  p.  170  ("  Brief  we  chsel,"  6, 

P-  9). 

2  Kostlin-Kawerau,  2,  p.  48. 

3  F.  Feuchtwanger  :  "  Gesch.  der  sozialen  Politik  .  .  .  im  Zeitalter 
der  Reformation  "  ("  Schmollers  Jahrb.  f.  Gesetzgebung  N.F.,"  33, 
1909),  p.  193. 

4  Cp.  Enders,  "  Luthers  Brief wechsel,"  5,  p.  73  n. 

5  June  26,  1533,  to  Schnabel,  "  Brief  wechsel,"  9,  p.  316. 


The  time,  according  to  him,  "  is  not  yet  ripe  for  the  intro- 
duction of  discipline."  "  Verily  one  must  let  the  peasants 
run  riot  a  little  .  .  .  and  then  things  will  right  themselves." 
We  have  not  as  yet  taken  root  in  the  earth  ;  when  the 
branches  and  leaves  shall  have  appeared,  then  we  shall  be 
better  able  to  oppose  the  mighty.  The  Hessian  preachers, 
so  he  tells  them,  instead  of  rushing  in  with  the  Greater 
Excommunication  involving  such  serious  civil  consequences, 
would  do  better  to  begin  with  the  so-called  "  Lesser  Ex- 
communication "  in  use  at  Wittenberg,  simply  excluding  the 
unworthy  from  Communion  and  from  the  right  to  stand  as 
sponsors  ;  for  "  the  Greater  Excommunication  does  not 
come  within  our  jurisdiction  {''quod  non  sit  nostri  iuris'), 
and,  moreover,  concerns  only  those  who  desire  to  be  real 
Christians  ;  nor  are  we  in  these  times  in  a  position  to  make 
use  of  the  Greater  Excommunication  ;  it  would  merely 
make  us  look  silly  were  we  to  attempt  it  before  we  have  the 
necessary  power.  You  seem  to  hope  that  the  Prince  will 
take  the  enforcing  of  it  into  his  own  hands  ;  but  this  is 
very  uncertain,  and  it  is  better  he  should  have  nothing  to 
do  with  it." 

Thus,  though  Luther  did  not  believe  in  the  feasibility  of 
a  community  of  real  Christians  there  and  then,  or  that  it 
was  likely  soon  to  be  realised,  yet  the  idea  had  not  quitted 
his  mind.  The  great  mass  of  those  belonging  to  his  party 
meanwhile  constituted  a  sort  of  popular  Church.  But  such 
a  popular  Church  was  not  in  Luther's  eyes  the  real  institu- 
tion intended  by  the  Gospel.  It  consisted  of  the  masses 
"  who  must  first  be  left  their  own  way  for  a  while  "  before 
the  Church  can  be  established.  Drews  justly  observes  of 
the  above  statement  :  "  Luther  did  not  relinquish  the  ideal 
of  a  really  Christian  congregation  because  he  had  come  to 
see  that  it  was  mistaken,  the  ideal  had  simply  lost  its 
practical  value  in  his  eyes  because  it  now  seemed  impossible 
of  realisation.  Luther  resigned  himself  to  take  things  as 
they  were.  As  he  had  always  regarded  it  as  his  mission,  not 
to  organise,  but  merely  to  preach  the  Evangel,  he  was  easily 
able  to  console  himself.  At  any  rate  it  would  be  quite  wrong 
to  say  that  the  popular  Churches  which  now  grew  up  at  all 
corresponded  with  his  ideal."1 

The   popular    Church   throve,    nevertheless,    and,    soon, 

i  lb.,  p.  68. 


owing  to  the  co-operation  of  numerous  factors,  became  a 
State  institution. 

The  result  was  the  Lutheran  State- Church,  to  be  con- 
sidered later  in  another  connection,  was  something  widely 
different  from  the  original  idea  of  its  founder  ;  he  frequently 
grumbled  about  it,  without,  however,  being  able  to  check 
its  development,  which,  indeed,  he  himself  had  been  the 
first  to  urge.1  The  sovereigns  on  their  side,  particularly  the 
Saxon  Elector  in  the  very  birthplace  of  the  innovations, 
did  their  best  to  make  ecclesiastical  order,  so  far  as  externals, 
its  organisation  and  control  went,  depend  upon  themselves.2 

The  Visitation  of  1527,  for  which  Luther  himself  had 
asked,  furnished  the  Elector  Johann  with  a  welcome  pretext 
for  such  action. 

Even  when  giving  his  formal  consent  to  the  Visitation 
the  Elector  says,  speaking  of  the  "  erection  of  parishes  "  : 
"  We  have  considered  and  weighed  the  matter  and  have 
come  to  the  conclusion  that  it  becomes  us  as  ruler  of  the 
land  to  see  to  the  business."3  Luther,  moreover,  for  the 
sake  of  securing  some  order  in  the  new  Church  by  the  only 
means  at  his  command,  outdid  himself  in  assurances  to  the 
Elector,  that,  he,  being  the  principal  member  of  the  Church, 
must  take  in  hand  the  adjusting  of  the  parishes  and  the 
appointment  of  suitable  clergy  ;  that  his  very  love  of  his 
country  obliged  him  to  this,  and,  that,  owing  to  the  pressing 
needs  of  the  time,  he  was  a  sort  of  "  makeshift  bishop  "  of 
the  Church.  This  last  title  is  significant  of  the  reserve 
Luther  still  maintained  ;  he  was  loath  to  see  the  Church's 
authority  simply  merged  in  that  of  the  State  ;  he  did, 
nevertheless,  speak  of  the  sovereign  as  the  head  of  the  new 
congregations  and,  little  by  little,  allowed  him  so  large 
a  share  in  their  government  that,  even  in  his  own  day,  the 
secular  sovereign  was  to  all  intents  and  purposes  supreme 
head  of  the  episcopate.4 

1  Below,  xxxv.,  2. 

2  To  what  extent  the  Elector  was  following  the  example  of  his 
Catholic  ancestors  in  Church  matters  is  shown  by  K.  Pallas,  "  Entste- 
hung  des  landesherrlichen  Kirchenregiments  in  Kursachsen "  ("  N. 
Mitteilungen  aus  dem  Gebiet  historisch-antiquarischer  Forschung  "), 
24,  2. 

3  To  Luther,  Nov.  26,  1526,  "  Brief wechsel,"  5,  p.  408. 

4  Proofs  of  this  will  be  given  below  when  we  deal  with  Luther's 
attitude  towards  State  government  of  the  Church.  So  ineffectual 
was  Luther's  reserve  and  even  his  formal  protest,   that   Carl  Holl 


9.   Public  Worship.     Questions  of  Ritual 

The  ordering  of  public  worship,  particularly  at  Witten- 
berg, was  a  source  of  much  anxiety  to  Luther.  He  was  not 
blind  to  the  difficulties  which  his  reformation  had  to  face  in 
this  department. 

The  soul  of  every  religion  must  be  sought  in  its  public 
worship.  Hence,  in  Catholicism,  the  bishops,  from  earliest 
times,  had  bestowed  the  most  diligent  and  pious  care  on 
worship.  A  proof  of  this  is  to  be  found  in  the  grand  liturgies 
of  antiquity  and  the  prayers,  lessons  and  outward  rites  with 
which  they  so  lovingly  surround  the  eucharistic  sacrifice. 

To  build  up  a  new  liturgy  from  the  very  foundation  was 
far  from  Luther's  thoughts.  He  was  not  the  "  creator  " 
of  any  new  form  of  public  worship.  He  preferred  to  make 
the  best  of  the  Roman  Mass,  for  one  reason,  as  he  so  often 
insists,  because  of  the  weak,  i.e.  so  as  not  needlessly  to 
alienate  the  people  from  the  new  Church  by  the  introduction 
of  novelties.1  From  the  ancient  rite  he  merely  eliminated 
all  that  had  reference  to  the  sacrificial  character  of  the  Mass, 
the  Canon,  for  instance,  and  the  preceding  Offertory. 
He  also  thought  it  best  to  retain  the  word  "  Mass  "  in  both 
the  writings  in  which  he  embodied  his  adaptation  :  "Formula 
missce  et  communionis  pro  ecclesia  Wittenbergensi  "  1523, 2 
and  "  Deudsche  Messe  und  Ordnung  Gottis  Diensts  "  1526. 3 

By  the  introduction  of  the  German  Mass  in  the  latter 
year  "  the  whole  Pope  was  flung  out  of  the  Church,"4  to  use 
Spalatin's  words.  It  is  noteworthy  that  Luther,  in  announc- 
ing this  latest  innovation  to  the  inhabitants  of  Wittenberg, 
admitted  that  he  had  been  urged  by  the  sovereign  to  make 
the  change.5 

(above,  p.  134,  n.  4)  remarks  (p.  59)  :  "  These  exertions  on  Luther's 
part  were  of  small  avail.  Facts  proved  stronger  than  his  theories.  Once 
the  Visitation  had  been  made  in  the  Elector's  name,  then,  in  spite  of 
all  that  might  be  said,  he  could  not  fail  to  appear  as  the  one  to  whom 
the  oversight  of  spiritual  matters  belonged.  It  must  have  been  fairly 
difficult  for  the  Electoral  Chancery  to  make  the  distinction  between 
the  Elector  speaking  as  a  brother  to  other  Christians  and  as  a  ruler 
to  his  subjects.  It  was  certainly  much  easier  to  treat  everything  on 
the  same  lines."     Cp.  W.  Friedensburg,  above,  vol.  ii.,  p.  333,  n.  2. 

1  Cp.  vol.  ii.,  p.  319  ff. 

2  "  Werke,"  Weim.  ed.,  12,  p.  205  ;    "  Opp.  lat.  var.,"  7,  p.  2  sqq. 

3  /&.,  Weim.  ed.,  19,  p.  70  ff.  ;  Erl.  ed.,  22,  p.  227  ff. 

4  To  V.  Warnbeck,  Sep.  30,  1525,  see  Schlegel,  "  Vita  Spalatini," 
p  .  222.    Cp.  Jonas  to  Spalatin,  Sep.  23,  1525,  vol.  iv.,  p.  511. 

6  "  Since  so  many  from  all  lands  request  me  to  do  so,  and  the  secular 


In  Luther's  "  German  Mass,"  as  in  his  even  more  traditional 
Latin  one,  we  find  at  the  beginning  the  Introit,  Kyrie  Eleison, 
Gloria  and  a  Collect ;  then  follows  the  Epistle  for  the  Sunday- 
together  with  a  Gradual  or  Alleluia  or  both  ;  then  the  Gospel 
and  the  Credo,  followed  by  the  sermon.  "  After  the  sermon  the 
Our  Father  is  to  be  publicly  explained  and  an  exhortation  given 
to  those  intending  to  approach  the  Sacrament,"1  then  comes  the 
Consecration.  The  Secret  was  omitted  with  the  Offertory.  The 
Preface  was  shortened.  Of  the  whole  of  the  hated  "  Canon  "2  the 
"  priest  "  was  merely  to  pronounce  aloud  over  the  Bread  and 
Wine  the  words  of  consecration  as  given  in  1  Cor.  xi.  23-25, 
saying  then  the  Sanctus  and  Benedictus.  The  Elevation  came 
during  the  Benedictus.3  The  Our  Father  and  the  Pax  follow, 
then  the  communion  of  the  officiating  clergyman  and  the  faithful, 
under  both  kinds.  To  conclude  there  was  another  collect  and 
then  the  blessing. 

Some  of  the  portions  mentioned  were  sung  by  the  congregation 
and  great  use  was  made  of  German  hymns. 4  Whatever  had  been 
retained  in  Latin  till  1526  was  after  that  date  put  into  German. 
For  the  sake  of  the  scholars  who  had  to  learn  Latin  Luther  would 
have  been  in  favour  of  continuing  to  say  the  Mass  in  that  language. 
The  old  ecclesiastical  order  of  the  excerpts  of  the  Epistles  and 
Gospels  read  in  church  was  retained,  though  the  selection  was  not 
to  Luther's  tastes  ;  it  seemed  to  him  that  the  passages  in  Holy 
Scripture  which  taught  saving  faith  were  not  sufficiently  to  the 
fore ;  he  was  convinced  that  the  man  who  originally  made  the 
selection  was  an  ignorant  and  superstitious  admirer  of  works  ;6 
his  advice  was  that  the  deficiency  should  at  any  rate  be  made 
good  by  the  sermon.  The  celebration  of  Saints'  days  was 
abolished,  saving  the  feasts  of  the  Apostles  and  a  few  others, 
and  of  the  feasts  of  the  Virgin  Mary  only  those  were  retained 
which  bore  on  some  mystery  of  Our  Lord's  life.  In  addition  to 
the  Sunday  service  short  daily  services  were  introduced  consisting 
of  the  reading  and  expounding  of  Holy  Scripture  ;  these  were  to 
be  attended  at  least  by  the  scholars  and  those  preparing  themselves 
for  the  preaching  office.  At  these  services  Communion  was  not  to 
be  dispensed  as  a  general  rule  but  only  to  those  who  needed  it. 

power  also  urges  me  to  it."  "  Werke,"  Weim.  ed.,  19,  p.  50  f.  ;  Erl. 
ed.,  142,  p.  278,  from  the  Church-postils.  Cp.  G.  Rietschel,  "  Lehrb. 
der  Liturgik,"  Berlin,  1900,  p.  278. 

i  "  Werke,"  Weim.  ed.,  19,  p.  95  ;   Erl.  ed.,  22,  p.  239. 

2  For  Luther's  writing  :  "  Von  dem  Grewel  der  Stillmesse  so  man  den 
Canon  nennet,"  see  above,  vol.  iv.,  p.  511  f. 

3  For  the  fate  of  this  see  our  vol.  iii.,  p.  392  f.,  vol.  iv.,  p.  195,  n.  4, 
p.  239,  and  Kawerau,  in  Moller,  "  KG,"  33,  p.  401. 

4  See  below,  xxxiv.,  4. 

5  Kostlin- Kawerau,  1,  p.  532.  He  also  repeatedly  complains  that 
the  hymns  and  prayers  of  antiquity  failed  to  make  sufficient  mention 
of  the  Redemption  and  the  Grace  of  Christ.  Even  in  the  "  Te  Deum  " 
he  misses  the  doctrine  of  Redemption,  needless  to  say  in  the  sense  in 
which  he  taught  it.     "  Briefe,"  ed.  Be  Wette,  6,  p.  425. 


Alb  and  chasuble  continued  to  be  worn  by  the  clergyman 
at  the  "  Mass  "  in  the  parish  church  of  Wittenberg,  though 
no  longer  in  the  monastic  church.  The  Swiss  who  visited 
Wittenberg  were  struck  by  this,  and,  in  their  reports, 
declared  that  Luther's  service  was  still  half  Popish.  At 
Augsburg  where  Zwinglianism  was  rampant  the  "  puppet 
show  "  of  the  Saxons,  with  their  priestly  vestments,  candles, 
etc.,  seemed  a  "  foolish  "  and  scandalous  thing.1  Luther 
wished  the  use  of  lights  and  incense  to  be  neither  enjoined 
nor  abolished. 

As  he  frequently  declared,  the  utmost  freedom  was  to 
prevail  in  matters  of  ritual  in  order  to  avoid  a  relapse  into 
the  Popish  practice  of  man-made  ordinances.  Even  the 
adoption  of  the  "  Deudsche  Messe,  etc.,"  was  to  be  left  to 
the  decision  of  the  congregations  and  the  pastors.2  If  they 
knew  of  anything  better  to  set  up  in  its  place,  this  was  not 
to  be  excluded  ;  yet  in  every  parish-congregation  there  must 
at  least  be  uniformity.  The  chief  thing  is  charity,  edifica- 
tion and  regard  for  the  weak.  Above  all,  the  "  Word  must 
have  free  course  and  not  be  allowed  to  degenerate  into 
singing  and  shouting,  as  was  formerly  the  case."3 

Of  the  whole  of  the  Wittenberg  liturgical  service,  he  says 
in  his  "  Deudsche  Messe  " — to  the  surprise  of  his  readers 
who  expected  to  find  in  it  a  work  for  the  believers — that 
it  did  not  concern  true  believers  at  all  :  "  In  short  we  do 
not  set  up  such  a  service  for  those  who  are  already  Chris- 
tians."4 He  is  thinking,  of  course,  of  the  earnest,  convinced 
Christians  whom,  as  stated  above  (p.  133  f.),  he  had  long 
planned  to  assemble  in  special  congregations.  They  alone 
in  his  eyes  constituted  the  true  Church,  however  imperfect 
and  sinful  they  might  be,  provided  they  displayed  faith  and 

"  They  "  (the  true  believers),  he  here  says  of  his  regulations, 
"  need  none  of  these  things,  for  which  indeed  we  do  not  live,  but 
rather  they  for  the  sake  of  us  who  are  not  yet  Christians,  in 
order  that  we  may  become  Christian  ;  true  believers  have  their 
service  in  the  spirit."5  In  the  case  of  the  particular  assemblies 
he  had  in  mind  for  the  latter,  they  would  have  to  "enter  their 
names  and  meet  in  some   house   or  other  for  prayer,  reading, 

1  W.  Germann,  "  Johann  Forster  "  ("  N.  Beitr.  zur  Gesch.  deutschen 
Altertums,"  Hft.  12),  1894. 

2  "  Werke,"  Weim.  ed.,  19,  p.  72  ;   Erl.  ed.,  22,  p.  227. 

3  lb.,  12,  p.  37-22,  p.  156.      *  lb.,  19,  p.  73  =  22,  p.  228.       5  lb. 


baptism,  receiving  of  the  Sacrament  and  other  Christian  works." 
"  Here  there  would  be  no  need  of  loud  or  fine  singing.  They 
could  descant  a  while  on  baptism  and  the  Sacrament,  and  direct 
everything  towards  the  Word  and  prayer  and  charity.  All  they 
would  need  would  be  a  good,  short  catechism  on  faith,  the  Ten 
Commandments  and  the  Our  Father."  Amongst  them  ecclesi- 
astical discipline  and  particularly  excommunication  would  be 
introduced  ;  such  assemblies  would  also  be  well  suited  for 
"  common  almsgiving,"  all  the  members  helping  in  replenishing 
the  poor-box.1 

Until  such  "  congregations  apart  "  had  come  into  being  the 
service,  and  particularly  the  sermon,  according  to  Luther,  must 
needs  be  addressed  to  all.  "  Such  a  service  there  must  be  for  the 
sake  of  those  who  are  yet  to  become  Christians,  or  need  strengthen- 
ing .  .  .  especially  for  the  sake  of  the  simple-minded  and  young 
...  on  their  account  we  must  read,  sing  and  preach  .  .  .  and, 
where  this  helps  at  all,  I  would  have  all  the  bells  rung  and  all 
the  organs  played."  He  boasts  of  having  been  the  first  to  impart 
to  public  worship  this  aim  and  character,  "to  exercise  the  young 
and  to  call  and  incite  others  to  the  faith  "  ;  the  "popish  services," 
on  the  other  hand,  were  "  so  reprehensible  "  because  of  the 
absence  of  any  such  character. — In  his  Churches  he  sees  "  many 
who  do  not  yet  believe  and  are  no  Christians  ;  the  greater  part 
stand  there  gaping  at  the  sight  of  something  new,  just  as  though 
we  were  holding  an  open-air  service  among  the  Turks  or 
heathen."  Hence  it  seems  to  him  quite  necessary  to  regard  the 
worship  in  common  as  simply  a  public  encouragement  to  faith 
and  Christianity.2 

As  for  those  Christians  who  already  believed,  Luther  cannot 
loudly  enough  assert  their  freedom. 

As  his  highest  principle  he  sets  up  the  following,  which 
in  reality  is  subversive  of  all  liturgy  :  In  Divine  worship 
"  it  is  a  matter  for  each  one's  conscience  to  decide  how  he 
is  to  make  use  of  such  freedom  [the  freedom  of  the  Christian 
man  given  by  the  Evangel]  ;  the  right  to  use  it  is  not  to  be 
refused  or  denied  to  any.  .  .  .  Our  conscience  is  in  no  way 
bound  before  God  by  this  outward  order."3  This  has  the 
true  Lutheran  ring.  Beside  this  must  be  placed  his  fre- 
quently repeated  assertion,  that  we  can  give  God  nothing 
that  tends  to  His  honour,  and  that  every  effort  on  our 
part  to  give  Him  anything  is  merely  an  attempt  to  make 
something  of  man  and  his  works,  which  works  are  invariably 
sinful.4  He  also  teaches  elsewhere  that  not  only  does  real 
and  true  worship  consist  in  a  life  of  faith  and  love,  but  that 

1  lb.,  p.  75  =  230  f.  2  lb.,  74  ff.  =  229  ff. 

3  lb.,  p.  72  =  228.  4  Cp.  for  instance  above,  p.  44  f. 


the  outward  worship  given  in  common  is  in  reality  a  sacri- 
fice of  praise  and  thanksgiving  (a  gift  to  God  after  all) 
made  in  common  solely  because  of  all  people's  need  to  ex- 
press their  faith  and  love  ;x  he  also  calls  it  a  "  sacrificium" 
naturally,  not  in  the  Catholic,  but  in  the  widest  sense  of  the 
word.  Even  the  expression  "  eucharistic  sacrifice,"  i.e. 
sacrifice  of  praise,  is  not  inacceptable  to  him  ;  but  at  least 
the  sacrifice  must  be  entirely  free. 

With  such  a  view  the  form  of  worship  described  above 
seems  scarcely  to  tally.  A  well-defined  outward  order  of 
wrorship  was  first  proposed,  and  then  prescribed  ;  it  would, 
according  to  Luther's  statement,  have  imposed  itself  even 
on  the  assemblies  of  true  believers.  It  is  true,  he  says,  that 
only  considerations  of  charity  and  public  order  compel  such 
outward  regulations,  that  it  was  not  his  doing  nor  that  of 
any  other  evangelical  authority.  Still  it  is  a  fact  that  they 
were  enjoined,  that  a  service  according  to  the  choice  of  the 
individual  was,  even  in  Luther's  day,  regarded  with  mis- 
givings, and  that  even  in  the  16th  century  it  fell  to  the 
secular  prince  to  sanction  the  form  of  worship  in  church 
and  to  punish  those  who  stayed  away,  those  who  failed  to 
communicate  and  those  who  did  not  know  their  catechism.2 
We  have  here  another  instance  of  the  same  contradiction 
apparent  in  matters  of  dogma,  where  Luther  bound  down 
the  free  religious  convictions  of  the  individual — supposed 
to  be  based  on  conscience  and  the  Bible — in  cast-iron  strands 
in  his  catechism  and  theological  hymns.  The  catechism, 
even  in  the  matter  of  confession,  and  likewise  the  theology 
of  the  hymns,  closely  trenched  on  the  regulations  for  Divine 
worship.  The  Ten  Commandments,  the  Our  Father,  etc., 
were  also  put  into  verse  and  song.  Moreover,  those  who 
presented  themselves  for  communion  had  to  submit  at  least 
to  a  formal  examination  into  their  faith  and  intentions, 
and  also  to  a  certain  scrutiny  of  their  morals — a  strange 
limitation  surely  of  Evangelical  freedom  and  of  the  universal 
priesthood  of  all  believers. 

According  to  Kawerau,  the  best  Protestant  liturgical 
writers  agree,  that  a  "  false,  pedagogic  conception  of  wor- 

1  Cp.  above,  p.  45,  and  "  Werke,"  Erl.  ed.,  142,  p.  87. 

2  On  Luther's  attitude  towards  such  punishment  cp.  his  letter  to 
Margrave  George  of  Brandenburg  (Sep.  14,  1531),  "  Briefe,"  ed.  De 
Wette,  4,  p.  308  ("  Brief wechsel,"  9,  p.  103). 

150         LUTHER  THE  REFORMER 

ship  "  finds  expression  in  Luther's  form  of  service.1  To 
make  the  aim  of  the  public  worship  of  the  congregation — 
whatever  elements  the  latter  might  comprise — a  mere 
exercise  for  the  young  and  a  method  of  pressing  "  Chris- 
tianity "  on  non-believers  was  in  reality  to  drag  down  the 
sublime  worship  of  God,  the  "  sacrifice  of  praise  and  thanks- 
giving "  as  Luther  himself  sometimes  calls  it,  to  an  un- 
deservedly low  level. 

This  degradation  was,  however,  intimately  bound  up  with 
the  fact,  that  Luther  had  robbed  worship  of  its  most  precious 
and  essential  portion,  the  eucharistic  sacrifice,  which,  ac- 
cording to  the  Prophet  Malachias,  was  to  be  offered  to 
the  Lord  from  the  rising  till  the  going  down  of  the  sun  as. 
a  pure  and  acceptable  oblation.  To  the  Catholic  observer 
his  service  of  the  Mass,  owing  to  the  absence  of  this  all- 
important  liturgical  centre,  appears  like  a  blank  ruin. 
As  early  as  1524  he  was  told  at  Wittenberg  that  his  service 
was  "  dreary  and  all  too  sober."  Although  it  was  his 
opposition  to  the  Holy  Sacrifice  and  its  ceremonies  which 
called  forth  this  stricture,  yet  at  the  same  time  his  objection 
to  any  veneration  of  the  Saints  also  contributed  to  the 
lifeless  character  of  the  new  worship.  It  was,  however, 
above  all,  the  omission  of  the  sacrifice  which  rendered 
Luther's  clinging  to  the  ancient  service  of  the  Mass  so 
unwarrantable. 2 

Older  Protestant  liturgical  writers  like  Kliefoth  spoke  of 
the  profound,  mystical  value  of  Luther's  liturgy  and  even 

1  Kawerau  in  the  "Gottinger  Gelehrte  Anzeigen,"  1888,  1,  p.  113  f., 
in  his  review  of  Joh.  Gottschick,  "  Luthers  Anschauungen  vom  christl. 
Gottesdienst,"  Freiburg,  1887  :  "In  practice  Luther  helped  to  further 
a  worship  which,  though  easily  to  be  explained,  constituted  neverthe- 
less a  questionable  concession  to  the  needs  of  the  moment ;  for  he 
vindicates  the  purely  pedagogic  character  of  worship  and  ascribes  it 
to  the  need  of  educating  backward  Christians  or  of  making  real 
Christians  of  them."  Kawerau  speaks  of  this  as  "an  object  which,  on 
every  side,  spells  serious  injury  to  worship  itself."  Gottschick  had 
proved  convincingly  (p.  19  f.)  that  "  such  a  conception  of  worship  was 
on  every  point  at  variance  with  Luther's  own  principles  concerning 
the  priestly  character  of  the  congregation  and  the  relation  of  prayer 
to  faith."  In  this  view  Gottschick  would  find  himself  "  in  complete 
harmony  with  all  eminent  liturgical  writers  at  the  present  day." 

2  J.  Gottschick  (see  above,  n.  1 ),  in  concluding,  charges  Luther's  reform 
of  divine  worship  with  being  merely  an  adaptation  of  the  Roman 
Mass,  absolutely  worthless  for  Lutherans,  adopted  out  of  too  great 
consideration  for  the  weak  ;  this  form  of  worship,  utterly  at  variance 
with  his  own  liturgical  principles,  was  not  to  be  regarded  as  a  real 
Lutheran  liturgy. 


of  certain  elements  as  being  quite  original.  Recourse  to 
the  old  scheme  of  the  Mass,  duly  expurgated,  was,  how- 
ever, a  much  simpler  process  than  they  imagined.  We 
must  also  bear  in  mind,  that  Luther  himself  was  not  so 
rigid  in  restricting  the  liturgy  to  the  forms  he  himself  had 
sketched  out  as  they  assumed.  On  the  contrary,  he  left 
room  for  development,  and  allowed  the  claims  of  freedom. 
Hence  it  is  not  correct  to  say,  that  he  curtailed  the  tendency 
towards  "  free  liturgical  development,"  as  has  been  asserted 
of  him  by  Protestants  in  modern  times.1  For  it  was  no  mere 
pretence  on  his  part  when  he  spoke  of  freedom  to  improve. 
The  progress  made  in  hymnology  owing  to  this  freedom  is 
a  proof  that  better  results  were  actually  arrived  at. 

How  easy  it  was,  on  the  other  hand,  for  liberty  to  lead  to 
serious  abuses  is  plain  from  the  history  of  the  Evangelical  churches 
in  Livonia.  Melchior  Hofmann,  the  preacher,  had  come  from 
that  country  to  Wittenberg  complaining  that  the  reformed  service 
had  given  rise  to  the  worst  discord  among  both  people  and  clergy. 
Luther  composed  a  circular  letter  addressed  to  the  inhabitants  of 
Livonia,  entitled  "  Eyne  christliche  Vormanung  von  eusser- 
lichem  Gottis  Dienste  unde  Eyntracht  an  die  yn  Lieffland,"  which 
was  printed  together  with  a  letter  from  Bugenhagen  and  another 
from  Hofmann.2  Therein  he  admits  with  praiseworthy  frank- 
ness his  embarrassment  with  regard  to  ceremonial  uniformity. 

"  As  soon  as  a  particular  form  is  chosen  and  set  up,"  he  says, 
"  people  fall  upon  it  and  make  it  binding,  contrary  to  the  freedom 
brought  by  faith."  "But  if  nothing  be  set  up  or  appointed,  the 
result  is  as  many  factions  as  there  are  heads.  .  .  .  One  must, 
however,  give  the  best  advice  one  can,  albeit  everything  is  not  at 
once  carried  out  as  we  speak  and  teach."  He  accordingly 
encourages  those  whom  he  is  addressing  to  meet  together 
amicably  "  in  order  that  the  devil  may  not  slink  in  unawares, 
owing  to  this  outward  quarrel  about  ceremonies."  "  Come  to 
some  agreement  as  to  how  you  wish  these  external  matters 
arranged,  that  harmony  and  uniformity  may  prevail  among  you 
in  your  region,"  otherwise  the  people  would  grow  "  confused  and 
discontented."  Beyond  such  general  exhortations  he  does  not 
go  and  thus  refuses  to  face  the  real  difficulty. 

When  seeking  to  introduce  uniformity  nothing  was  to  be 
imposed  as  "  absolute  command,"  but  merely  to  "  ensure  the 
unity  of  the  Christian  people  in  such  external  matters  "  ;  in  other 
words,  "  because  you  see  that  the  weak  need  and  desire  it."    The 

1  Cp.  Kawerau's  quotations  in  his  article  in  the  "  Gottinger  Gel. 
Anzeigen,"  1888,  1,  p.  115. 

2  June  17,  1525,  "  Werke,"  Weim.  ed.,  18,  p.  412  ff.  ;  Erl.  ed.,  53, 
p.  315  ff.  ("  Brief wechsel,"  5,  p.  198).  For  Bugenhagen's  letter  see 
"  Brief  wechsel,"  p.  207,  for  Hofmann's,  ib.,  p.  213. 

152         LUTHER  THE  REFORMER 

people,  however,  were  "  to  inure  themselves  to  the  breaking  out 
of  factions  and  dissensions.  For  who  is  able  to  ward  off  the 
devil  and  his  satellites  ?  "  "When  you  were  Papists  the  devil,  of 
course,  left  you  in  peace.  .  .  .  But  now  that  you  have  the  true 
seed  of  the  divine  Word  he  cannot  refrain  from  sowing  his  own 
seed  alongside." 

The  writing  did  no  good,  for  the  confusion  continued.  It  was 
only  in  1528  that  the  Konigsberg  preacher,  Johann  Briesmann,  at 
the  request  of  the  authorities  and  with  Luther's  help,  established 
a  new  form  of  church  government  in  Livonia. 

Were  one  to  ask  which  was  the  principal  point  in  Luther's 
Mass,  the  Supper  or  the  sermon,  it  would  not  be  easy  to 

The  term  Mass  and  the  adaptation  of  the  olden  ritual 
would  seem  to  speak  in  favour  of  the  Supper.1  If,  how- 
ever, the  service  was  to  consist  principally  of  the  celebration 
of  the  Supper  it  was  necessary  there  should  always  be  com- 
municants. Without  communions  there  was,  according  to 
Luther,  no  celebration  of  the  Sacrament.  Now  at  Witt  en- 
berg  there  were  not  always  communicants,  nor  was  there 
any  prospect  of  the  same  presenting  themselves  at  every 
Sunday  service,  or  that  things  would  always  remain  as  in 
1531  when  Luther  boasted,  that  "  every  Sunday  the  hun- 
dred or  so  communicants  were  always  different  people."2 

At  the  weekly  services,  communion  in  any  case  was  very 
unusual.  The  custom  had  grown  up  under  Luther's  eyes 
that,  on  Sundays,  as  soon  as  the  sermon  was  over,  the 
greater  part  of  the  congregation  left  the  church.3  From 
this  it  is  clear  that  the  ritual  involved  a  misunderstanding. 
In  practice  the  celebration  of  the  Supper  became  something 
merely  supplementary,  whereas,  according  to  Luther  him- 
self, it  ought  to  have  constituted  either  the  culmination  of 
the  service,  or  at  least  an  organic  part  of  Divine  worship  ; 
under  him,  however,  it  was  soon  put  on  the  same  level  with 
the  sermon  though  the  organic  connection  between  the 
two  is  not  clear.    Indeed,  it  would  be  more  accurate  to  say 

1  Kawerau,  in  Moller,  "  KG.,"  33,  p.  400  ;  "  The  influence  of  the 
Catholic  past  is  still  evident  in  the  fact,  that,  in  spite  of  the  predominant 
position  assigned  to  preaching,  the  view  still  prevailed  that  Divine 
worship,  in  order  to  be  complete,  must  include  the  Supper,  and 
that  it  culminated  in  this  '  oflice.'  This,  even  in  the  16th  century, 
gave  rise  to  difficulties." 

2  To  Margrave  George  of  Brandenburg  in  the  letter  quoted  above, 
p.  145,  n.  2.  3  Kawerau,  ib.,  p.  401. 


that  predominance  was  assigned  to  the  sermon,1  which 
undoubtedly  was  only  right  if,  as  Luther  maintains,  worship 
was  intended  only  for  instruction. 

In  our  own  day  some  have  gone  so  far  as  to  demand 
that  the  sermon  should  be  completely  sundered  from  the 
Supper  ;  and  also  to  admit,  that  the  creation  of  a  real 
Lutheran  liturgy  constitutes  "  a  problem  still  to  be  solved."2 

It  is  a  fact  of  great  ethical  importance,  that,  what  was 
according  to  Luther  the  Sacrament  of  His  Real  Presence 
instituted  by  Christ  Himself,  had  to  make  way  for  preaching 
and  edification  by  means  of  prayers  and  hymns.  Even  the 
Elevation  had  to  go.  From  the  beginning  its  retention 
had  aroused  "  misgivings,"3  and,  to  say  the  least,  Luther's 
reason  for  insisting  on  it,  viz.  to  defy  Carlstadt  who  had 
already  abolished  it,  was  but  a  poor  one.  It  was  abrogated 
at  Wittenberg  only  in  1542  ;  elsewhere,  too,  it  was  discon- 
tinued.4 Thus  the  Sacrament  receded  into  the  background 
as  compared  with  other  portions  of  the  service.  But,  like 
prayer  and  hymn-singing,  preaching  too  is  human  and 
subject  to  imperfections,  whereas  the  Sacrament,  even 
though  it  be  no  sacrifice,  is,  even  according  to  Luther,  the 
Body  of  Christ.  Luther  was,  indeed,  ready  with  an  answer, 
viz.  that  the  sermon  was  also  the  Word  of  God,  and,  that, 
by  means  of  both  Sacrament  and  sermon,  God  was  working 
for  the  strengthening  of  faith.  Whether  this  reply  gets  rid 
of  the  difficulty  may  here  be  left  an  open  question.  At  any 
rate  the  ideal  Word  of  God  could  not  be  placed  on  the 
same  footing  with  the  sermons  as  frequently  delivered  at 
that  time  by  expounders  of  the  new  faith,  capable  or  other- 
wise, sermons,  which,  according  to  Luther's  own  loud  com- 
plaints, contained  anything  but  the  rightful  Word  of  God, 
and  were  anything  but  worthy  of  being  classed  together 
writh  the  Sacrament  as  one  of  the  two  component  parts  of 
Divine  worship. 

Three  charges  of  a  general  character  were  made  by  Luther 
against  Catholic  worship.  First,  "  the  Word  of  God  had  not  been 
preached  .  .  .  this  was  the  worst  abuse."  Secondly,  "  many 
unchristian  fables  and  lies  found  their  way  into  the  legends, 
hymns  and  sermons."     Finally,   "  worship  was  performed  as  a 

1  lb.,  p.  400.  Luther  says  :  "  Diligens  verbi  Dei  prcedicatio  est 
proprius  cultus  novi  testamenti."     "  Opp.  lat.  exeg.,"  19,  p.  161. 

2  Gottschick.  3  This  is  Kawerau's  opinion,  ib.,  p.  401. 
4  See  above,  p.  146,  n.  3. 


work  whereby  to  win  salvation  and  God's  grace  ;  and  so  faith 

Of  these  charges  it  is  hard  to  say  which  is  the  most  unjust. 
His  assertion  that  the  Word  of  God  had  not  been  preached  and 
that  there  was  no  Bible-preaching,  has  been  refuted  anew  by 
every  fresh  work  of  research  in  the  history  of  preaching  at  that 
time.  Nor  was  the  Bible-element  in  preaching  entirely  lacking, 
though  it  might  not  have  been  so  conspicuous.  The  truth  is, 
that,  in  many  places,  sermons  were  extremely  frequent.2 

Luther's  second  assertion,  viz.  that  Catholic  worship  was  full 
of  lying  legends,  does  not  contain  the  faintest  trace  of  truth,  more 
particularly  there  where  he  was  most  radical  in  his  work  of 
expurgation,  i.e.  in  the  Canon.  The  Canon  was  a  part  of  the 
Mass-service,  which  had  remained  unaltered  from  the  earliest 
times.  It  was  only  into  the  sermons  that  legends  had  found  their 
way  to  a  great  extent. 

If  finally,  as  seems  likely,  Luther,  by  his  third  charge,  viz.  that 
the  olden  Church  sought  to  "  win  salvation  and  God's  Grace  " 
through  her  worship,  means  that  this  was  the  sole  or  principal 
aim  of  Catholic  worship,  here,  too,  he  is  at  sea.  The  real  object 
had  always  been  the  adoration  and  thanksgiving  which  are  God's 
due,  offered  by  means  of  the  sublime  sacrifice  united  with  the 
spiritual  sacrifice  of  the  whole  congregation.  Adoration  and 
thanksgiving  found  their  expression  above  all  in  the  sublime 
Prefaces  of  the  Mass.  The  thought  already  appears  in  the 
"  Sursum  corda,  Qratias  agamus,  etc.,  Dignum  et  iustum  est," 
whereupon  the  priest,  taking  up  again  the  "  Dignum  et  iustum 
est"  proceeds  :  "  AZquum  et  salutare,  nos  tibi  semper  et  ubique 
gratias  agere  .  .  .  per  Christum  Dominum  nostrum"  It  is  not 
without  significance  that  "  dignum"  "  iustum  "  and  "  cequum  " 
stand  first,  and  that  "  salutare  "  comes  after  ;  praise  and  thanks- 
giving are  what  it  becomes  us  first  of  all  to  offer  in  presence  of 
God's  Majesty,  but  they  are  also  profitable  to  us  because  they 
render  God  gracious  to  us.3 

The  ritual  of  the  Catholic  sacrifice,  dating  as  it  does  from 
the  Church's  remotest  past,  expresses  adequately  the 
highest  thoughts  of  Christian  ethics,  viz.  the  adoration  of 
the  Creator  by  the  creature  through  the  God-man  Christ, 
Who  alone  worthily  honours  Him.  To  this  idea  Luther's 
attempt  at  a  liturgy  does  not  do  justice. 

1  "Werke,"  Weim.  ed.,  12,  p.  35;  Erl.  ed.,  22,  p.  153.  "Von 
Ordenung  Gottes  Dienst  ynn  der  Gemeyne,"  1523. 

2  Of  the  most  recent  studies  we  need  only  mention  here  H.  Greving, 
"  Ecks  Pfarrbuch  fur  U.L.  Fran  in  Ingolstadt  "  ("  RG1.  Studien  "),  Hft. 
4  and  5,  1908,  p.  87  ff.  Cp.  Janssen,  "Hist,  of  the  German  People  " 
(Engl.  Trans.),  vol.  i.,  passim. 

3  This  introduction,  together  with  the  whole  text  of  the  common 
Preface,  enters  into  Luther's  Latin  Mass.  "  Werke,"  Weim.  ed.,  12, 
p.  212  ;    "  Opp.  lat.  var.,"  7,  p.  8.    In  his  German  Mass  it  is  suppressed. 


10.  Schwenckfeld  as  a  Critic  of  the  Ethical  Results  of 
Luther's  Life-work 

Caspar  Schwenckfeld,  the  Silesian  nobleman  (see  above, 
p.  78  ff.),  is  a  type  of  those  men  who  attached  themselves  to 
Lutheranism  with  the  utmost  enthusiasm,  but,  who,  owing 
to  the  experience  they  met  with  and  in  pursuance  of  those 
very  principles  which  Luther  himself  had  at  first  advocated, 
came  to  strike  out  new  paths  of  their  own. 

In  spite  of  his  pseudo-mystical  schemes  for  the  establish- 
ment of  a  Church  on  the  Apostolic  model ;  in  spite  of  his 
abandonment  of  doctrines  to  which  Luther  clung  as  to 
an  heirloom  of  the  ancient  Church ;  regardless  of  his 
antagonism  to  Luther — which  the  latter  repaid  with  relent- 
less persecution — this  cultured  fanatic  expressed  in  his 
numerous  writings  and  letters  his  lasting  gratitude  to,  and 
respect  for,  Luther  on  account  of  the  services  which  the 
latter  had  in  his  opinion  rendered  in  the  restoration  of 
truth.  He  extols  his  "  wonderful  trumpet-call,"1  and 
without  any  trace  of  hypocrisy,  says  :  "  What  Martin 
Luther  and  others  have  done  aright,  for  instance  in  the 
expounding  of  Holy  Scripture  ...  I  trust  I  will,  with 
God's  help,  never  underrate."2 

At  the  same  time,  however,  he  is  not  slow  to  express  it 
as  his  conviction,  that,  "  At  the  beginning  of  the  present 
Evangel  the  said  [Lutheran]  doctrine  was  far  better,  purer 
and  more  wholesome  than  it  is  now."3  "  Dr.  Martin  led  us 
out  of  Egypt,  through  the  Red  Sea  and  into  the  wilderness, 
and  there  he  left  us  to  lose  ourselves  on  the  rough  roads  ; 
yet  he  seeks  to  persuade  everybody  that  we  are  already  in 
the  Promised  Land."    This  he  said  in  1528. 4 

"  Although  Luther  has  written  much  that  is  good," 
"  that  has  been  and  still  may  be  profitable  to  believers,  for 
which  we  give  praise  and  thanks  to  God  the  Lord,  still  he 
has  also  written  much  that  is  evil,  and  in  the  end  it  will 
be  proved  that  his  and  his  people's  doctrine  or  theologia  was 
neither  apostolic,  nor  pure,  nor  perfect  .  .  .  which  certainly 
might  have  been  seen  long  since  by  its  fruits."5 

1  "Epistolar,"  2,  2,  1570.    Ecke  (see  below,  p.  156,  n.  1),  p.  159. 

2  "  Der  erste  Teil  der  christl.  orthodox.  Biicher  und  Schriften.  .  .  . 
Schwenckfelds  .  .  .  durch  Mitbekenner  zusammengetragen,"  1564, 
p.  4.     Ecke,  p.  160  ;    cp.  p.  10  f. 

3  "  Epistolar,"  ib.,  p.  228;   cp.  p.  246.      4  lb.,  p.  645.     5  lb.,  p.  519. 


His  criticisms  of  Luther,  which,  in  spite  of  his  harsh  treat- 
ment at  the  latter's  hands,  are  throughout  temperately 
expressed  and  with  a  certain  aristocratic  reticence,  deal 
on  the  one  hand  with  the  fruits  of  the  Wittenberg  Reforma- 
tion, and,  on  the  other,  with  certain  main  features  of  the 
ethical  teaching  of  his  master  and  one-time  friend  ;  his 
strictures  thus  form  a  recapitulation  of  what  has  gone 

On  the  hoped-for  Moral  Revival 

"  The  reformation  of  life  has  not  taken  place,"  this  is 
what  Carl  Ecke,  Schwenckfeld's  latest  biographer,  repre- 
sents as  the  honest  conviction  of  the  "  apostolic  "  preacher 
of  the  faith  in  Silesia.1  "  The  religion  of  Lutheranism  as  it 
then  was  did  not,  in  Schwenckfeld's  opinion,  as  a  whole 
reach  the  standard  of  Bible  Christianity."2  "  The  greater 
part  of  the  common  herd,"  says  Schwenckfeld,  "  who  are 
called  Lutherans  do  not  know  to-day  how  they  stand, 
whether  with  regard  to  works,  or  in  relation  to  God  and 
to  their  own  conscience."3 

Schwenckfeld's  own  standard  was  certainly  somewhat 
one-sided  and  his  own  Apostolic  Church,  so  far  as  it  ever 
saw  the  light,  fell  considerably  short  of  the  ideal.  His 
insight  into  the  ethical  conditions  and  doctrines  was,  how- 
ever, keen  enough  and  his  judgment  was  at  least  far  calmer 
and  clearer  than  that  of  Carlstadt  and  Luther's  other  more 
hot-headed  antagonists.  He  was  also  able  to  base  his 
definite  and  oft-repeated  statements  on  the  experience  he 
had  gained  during  his  wide  travels  and  in  intercourse  with 
all  sorts  of  men. 

Thus  he  writes  :  "  If  by  God's  grace  I  see  the  great  common 
herd  and  the  poor  folk  on  both  sides,  as  they  really  are,  then  I  must 
fain  admit,  that,  under  the  Papacy  and  in  spite  of  all  its  errors, 
there  are  more  pious,  godfearing  men  than  in  Lutheranism.  I  also 
believe  that  they  might  more  easily  be  improved  than  some  of 
our  Evangelicals  who  are  now  trying  to  hide  themselves  and 
their  sinful  life  behind  Holy  Scripture,  nay,  behind  a  fictitious 

1  "  Schwenckfeld,  Luther  und  der  Gedanke  einer  apostolischen 
Ref.,"  Berlin,  1911,  p.  161. 

2  Ecke,  p.  176.  The  Protestant  author  adds  in  a  note  :  "It  must, 
however,  be  pointed  out  that  this  criticism  does  not  affect  the  apostolic 
nature  of  the  profound  phenomena  of  Evangelical  piety  seen  among 

3  "  Christl.  Bucher,"  etc.  (above,  p.  155,  n.  2),  p.  384.    Ecke,  p.  177. 


faith  and  Christ's  satisfaction,  and  in  whom  no  fear  of  God 
is  left."1 

Many  of  Schwenckfeld's  more  specific  complaints  are  supported 
by  other  witnesses.  We  may  compare  what  Luther  himself  and 
his  friends  report  of  the  conditions  at  Wittenberg2  with  what 
Schwenckfeld  says  a  little  later  :  "  It  is  credibly  asserted  con- 
cerning their  Church  at  Wittenberg,  that  there  such  a  mad, 
dissolute  life  prevails  as  is  woeful  to  see  ;  there  is  no  discipline 
whatever,  no  fear  of  Cod,  and  the  people  are  wild,  impudent  and 
unmannerly,  particularly  Philip's  students,  so  that  even  Dr. 
Major  not  long  since  (1556)  is  himself  said  to  have  complained 
of  it  there  in  a  sermon,  saying  :  Our  Wittenberg  is  so  widely 
talked  of  that  strangers  fancy  there  are  only  angels  here  ;  when, 
however,  they  come  they  find  only  devils  incarnate.  If  Philip, 
who  sends  out  his  disciples  as  Apostles  '  in  omne?n  terram '  does 
not  found  any  better  Churches  than  these,  he  has  but  little  to 
boast  of  before  God."3 

"  What  harm  and  damage  to  consciences  such  Lutheran 
teaching  has  brought  into  Christendom  it  is  easier  to  bewail  with 
many  tears  than  to  describe."  Though  Luther's  "  Evangel  and 
office  has  discovered  and  made  an  end  of  much  false  worship  and 
a  great  apostasy,  for  which  we  give  thanks  to  God  the  Lord,"  yet 
"  it  has  but  little  of  the  power  of  grace,  of  the  Holy  Spirit,  or  of 
blessing,  for  bringing  sinners  to  repentance  and  true  conversion."4 

"  Thus  we  have  Schwenckfeld's  witness  that  he  had  seen 
nothing  of  any  real  awakening  or  revival  among  the  people 
generally.  Whole  classes,  the  merchant  class,  for  instance, 
remained  inwardly  untouched  by  the  glad  tidings  ;  even  where 
the  '  Word  '  was  preached,  there  the  bad  sermons,  of  which 
Schwenckfeld  had  complained  as  early  as  1524,  often  produced 
evil  fruits."  Thus  writes  Ecke.5  Schwenckfeld,  however,  does 
not  lay  all  the  blame  on  the  preachers,  but  rather  directly  on  the 
ethical  principles  resulting  from  Luther's  doctrines,  which  had 
rilled  the  utterances  of  the  new  preachers  with  so  much  that  was 
dangerous  and  misleading.  "  Oh,  how  many  of  our  nobles  have 
I  heard  say:  'I  cannot  help  it,'  'it  is  God's  Will,'  'God  does  all, 
even  my  sin,  and  I  am  not  answerable  '  ;  'if  He  has  predestined 
me  I  shall  be  saved.'  "  "  How  many  have  I  heard,  who  all 
appealed  to  the  Wittenberg  writings,  and,  who,  alas,  to-day,  are 
ten  times  worse  than  before  the  Evangel  began  to  be  preached."6 

Whenever  he  exhorted  his  Lutheran  co-religionists  to  con- 
version and  holiness  of  life,  so  he  declares  in  1543,  he  always 
received  some  reply  such  as  the  following  :  "  We  are  poor  sinners 
and  can  do  nothing  good."  "  Faith  alone  without  works  saves 
us."  "We  cannot  keep  God's  law";  "have  no  free-will." 
"  Amendment  is  not  in  our  power."     "  Christ  has  done  enough 

1  "  Epistolar,"  ib.,  p.  602.     In  1550.     Ecke,  p.  196. 

2  See  our  vol.  iv.,  p.  210  ff.,  for  instance,  and  below,  vol.  vi.,xxxix.,  1. 

3  "  Die  ander  Verantwortung,"  1556,  Aiii.     Ecke,  p.  190  f. 

4  "  Christl.  Bucher,"  p.  326  f.    Ecke,  p.  163.  5  Ib. 
6  "  Epistolar,"  1,  1566,  p.  680.    Ecke,  p.  164. 


for  us  ;  He  has  overthrown  sin,  death,  hell  and  the  devil  ;  that  is 
what  we  have  to  believe."1  When  he  preached  sanctification  he 
was  dubbed  a  "  Papist."  "  That  the  Lutherans  accuse  me  of 
being  more  a  Papist  than  a  Lutheran  is  due  mainly  to  good  works 
and  the  stress  I  lay  on  them."2 

Even  in  1524  he  had  published  an  essay  on  practical 
ethics  entitled,  "  An  Exhortation  regarding  the  misuse  of 
sundry  Articles  of  the  Evangel,  etc."  (Above,  79  f.)  In 
1547  he  found  it  necessary  to  publish  another  work  on  the 
"  Misuse  of  the  Evangel."  To  this  misuse  he  attributes 
most  of  the  above  excuses  of  his  "  Lutheran  co-religionists." 
Luther  himself,  so  he  declares  here,  was  much  to  blame  for 
the  confusion  that  prevailed.  He  quotes  many  passages 
from  Luther's  Church-postils,  from  the  edition  printed  at 
Wittenberg  in  1526  with  prefaces  by  Luther  and  Stephen 
Roth.  He  also,  makes  use  of  the  same  work  in  another  book, 
"  On  Holy  Scripture,"  which  he  also  wrote  in  1547.3  Many 
of  the  incriminated  passages  were  "  wickedly  omitted  "  in 
the  next  editions  of  the  Church-postils.4 

Further    Complaints    of  Schwenckf eld's.      The    Ethical 

Schwenckfeld,  in  his  strictures  on  Luther's  preaching  and 
its  results,  deals  with  the  ethical  side  of  the  new  teaching 
concerning  the  Law  and  the  Gospel. 

Luther  had  said,  that,  with  the  law,  God  "  wished  to  do 
no  more  than  make  us  feel  our  helplessness,  our  weakness 
and  our  sickness."5  The  critic  asks  :  "  Why  not  also  to 
make  us  eschew  evil  and  do  good,  1  Peter  iii.  ?  "  On  the 
other  hand,  Luther  will  have  it  that  the  "  Law  makes  all  of 
us  sinners  so  that  not  even  the  smallest  tittle  of  these  com- 
mandments can  be  kept  even  by  the  most  holy."  "  Such 
is  in  short  Luther's  doctrine  concerning  the  Law  and  the 
Commandments  of  God.  There  he  lets  it  rest,  as  though 
the  ground  and  contents  of  the  Law  and  God's  intention 
therein — which  was  centred  on  Christ — were  nothing.  .  .  . 

1  "  Christl.  Biicher,"  p.  362.    In  1547.    Ecke,  ib. 

2  Ecke,  p.  164,  from  a  MS. 

3  "  Christl.  Biicher,"  p.  477.    Ecke,  p.  164. 

4  Thus  G.  Arnold,  "  Kirchenhistorie,"  Frankfurt  a/M.,  1729,  1, 
p.  413. 

5  lb.,  p.  395.  Ecke,  p.  170  f.,  where  he  quotes  in  support  of  this 
and  what  follows,  "  Luthers  Werke,"  Erl.  ed.,  142,  pp.  164  f.,  174. 


Of  this  doctrine,  particularly,  the  common  people  can  make 
nothing  save  that  God  has  given  us  His  commandments, 
not  in  order  that  we  may  keep  them  by  means  of  His  Grace, 
but  only  that  we  may  thereby  come  to  the  knowledge  of 

"  Why  should  we  hate  our  life  in  this  world  .  .  .  and 
follow  Christ  ?  Nay,  why  take  pains  at  all  to  enter  in  at  the 
narrow  gate  and  to  seek  the  strait  way  to  life  everlasting 
(Mt.  vii.)  if  it  is  possible  to  reach  heaven  along  the  broad 
way  on  which  so  many  walk  who  are  called  Lutherans,  and 
to  enter  in  through  the  wide  gate  which  they  make  for 
themselves  !  "2 

Two  other  points  of  doctrine  which  in  the  same  connec- 
tion Schwenckfeld  censures  in  the  strongest  terms  as  real 
stumbling  blocks  in  ethics,  are  the  preaching  of  predestina- 
tion and  the  denial  of  free-will. 

How,  at  the  outset,  the  "  learned  had  soared  far  too  high  " 
with  their  article  of  predestination  "  and,  by  means  of  their 
human  wisdom,  reached  a  philosophical,  heathen  conception 
[presumably  the  ancient  '  fatum  ']  can  readily  be  seen  from  their 
books,  especially  from  Luther's  against  free-will  and  Melanch- 
thon's  first  Commentary  on  the  Epistle  to  the  Romans."3 

"  Luther  writes  that  no  one  is  free  to  plan  either  good  or  evil, 
but  only  does  as  he  is  obliged  ;  that,  as  God  wills,  so  we  live.  .  .  . 
Item,  that  the  man  who  does  evil  ha-s  no  control  over  himself, 
that  it  is  not  in  man's  power  to  do  evil  or  not,  but  that  he  is 
forced  to  do  it,  '  nos  coacti  facimus.'  "  "  God,"  so  Philip  tells  us, 
"  does  all  things  by  His  own  power."4 

"  They  have  treated  of  predestination  in  accordance  with 
heathen  philosophy,  forgetful  of  Christ  and  the  Grace  of  the 
Gospel  now  made  manifest ;  they  wrote  of  it  from  a  human 
standpoint ;  and  though  Luther  and  Philip,  after  they  had  seen 
the  evil  results,  would  gladly  have  retracted  it,  yet  because  what 
they  had  formerly  taught  was  very  pleasing  to  the  flesh,  it  took 
root  in  men's  hearts  so  deeply  that  what  they  afterwards  said 
passed  almost  unheard."5 

"  This  aberration,"  says  Ecke,  "  was  to  Schwenckfeld  a  further 
sign  that  their  method  of  reformation  was  not  that  of  good 

Schwenckfeld  complains  rightly  :  "  Instead  of  beginning,  after 
the  Apostles'  example,  by  preaching  penance   in  the  name   of 

1  lb.  2  lb.,  p.  325.    Ecke,  p.  172. 

3  lb.,  p.  377.    Ecke,  p.  168. 

4  lb.,  p.  420.  Schwenckfeld's  excuse  is,  however,  worthy  of  note, 
p.  401  :  "  Such  doctrine  is  not  the  outcome  of  an  evil  mind  but  is  due 
to  misapprehension."     Ecke,  p.  168. 

5  lb.,  p.  421.     Ecke,  p.  169.  6  lb. 


Christ  .  .  .  they  preferred  vehemently  to  urge  such  lofty  matters 
as  predestination  and  the  Divine  election  together  with  the  denial 
of  free-will."1 

The  universal  priesthood  as  commonly  preached  and 
understood  by  the  people  furnishes  Schwenckfeld  with  a 
further  cause  for  grumbling.  "  They  have  also  been  in  the 
habit  of  preaching  and  shouting  to  the  multitudes  that 
all  of  them  were  already  Christians,  children  of  God  and 
spiritual  kings  and  princes.  What  corruption  of  conscience 
and  abuse  of  the  Evangel  has  resulted  from  all  this  we  see 
and  hear  to-day  from  many  .  .  .  who  thereby  have  fallen 
into  a  bold  and  godless  manner  of  life."2 

Finally  there  was  Luther's  ethical  attitude  towards  sin. 
"  Look  at  the  second  sermon  for  Easter  Day  in  Luther's 
Church-sermons  [where  he  says]  :  *  Where  now  is  sin  ?  It 
is  nailed  to  the  cross.  ...  If  only  I  hold  fast  to  this,  I 
shall  have  a  good  conscience  of  being,  like  Christ  Himself, 
without  sin  ;   then  I  can  defy  death,  devil,  sin  and  hell.'  ' 

Schwenckfeld  continues  :  "  And  again  :  '  Seeing  that  Christ 
allowed  Himself  to  be  put  to  death  for  sin,  it  cannot  harm  me. 
Thus  does  faith  work  in  the  man  who  believes  that  Christ  has 
taken  away  sin  ;  such  a  one  feels  himself  to  be  without  sin  like 
Christ,  and  knows  that  death,  devil  and  hell  have  been  conquered 
and  cannot  harm  him  any  more.'  Hcec  ille.  This  has  proved 
a  scandal  to  many."3 

He  is  angered  by  what  Luther  says  in  his  sermon  for  the  8th 
Sunday  after  Trinity,  that  "  no  work  can  condemn  a  man,  that 
unbelief  is  the  only  sin,  and  that  it  was  the  comfort  of  Christians 
to  know  that  sins  do  not  harm  them.  Item,  that  only  sinners 
belong  to  the  Kingdom  of  God." — He  is  much  shocked  at  such 
sayings  as,  "  If  you  but  believe  you  are  freed  from  sin.  ...  If  we 
believe  then  we  have  a  Gracious  God  and  only  need  to  direct  our 
works  to  the  advantage  of  our  neighbour  so  that  they  may  be 
profitable  to  him."4 

Such  a  form  of  neighbourly  love  does  not  suffice  to  reassure 
Schwenckfeld  as  to  the  method  of  justification  taught  by  Luther. 
"  We  see  here  that  repentance,  the  renewal  of  the  heart  and  the 
crucifixion  of  the  flesh  with  its  lusts  and  concupiscences,  as  well 
as  the  Christian  combat  .  .  .  are  all  forgotten."  "  How  is  it 
possible  that  such  easy  indulgence  and  soft  and  honeyed  sermons 
should  not  lead  to  little  account  being  made  of  sin,  seeing  the 

1  lb.,  p.  401.  Ecke,  ib.                       2  lb.    Ecke,  p.  170. 

3  lb.,  p.  361.  Ecke  quotes  "  Luthers  Werke,"  Erl.  ed.,  II2,  p.  217. 

4  lb.,  p.  365.  Ecke,  p.  166,  quotes  Erl.  ed.,  132,  p.  218 ;  142,  pp.  281  f., 

287  ff. 


people  are  told  that  God  winks  at  the  sins  of  all  those  who 
believe  ?  "x 

Again  and  again  he  returns  to  the  patent  fact  that  "  the  result 
of  such  shameless  preaching  and  teaching  is  nothing  but  a  grave 
and  damnable  abuse  of  the  Evangel  of  Jesus  Christ,  since  people 
now  make  but  little  account  even  of  many  and  great  sins."2 

For  Luther  to  point  to  the  Crucified  and  tell  the  believer  that 
"  sin  is  nothing  but  a  devilish  spectre  and  a  mere  fancy,"  was 
to  speak  "  fanatically."  Luther  might  write  what  he  pleased,  but 
here,  at  any  rate,  he  was  himself  guilty  of  that  fanatism  of 
which  he  was  fond  of  accusing  others.3  Schwenckfeld  himself 
had  been  numbered  by  the  preachers  among  the  crazy  fanatics. 

The  Silesian  also  ruthlessly  attacked  the  imputation  of 
the  merits  of  Christ  by  means  of  the  Sola  Fides. 

The  Lutherans,  even  the  best  of  them,  imagine  their  righteous- 
ness to  be  nothing  else  "  but  the  bare  faith,  since  they  believe 
God  accounts  them  righteous,  even  though  they  remain  as  they 
were  before."  "  They  should,  however,  be  exhorted  to  search 
Holy  Scripture  and  to  ask  themselves  in  their  hearts  whether 
such  faith  and  righteousness  are  not  rather  a  human  persuasion, 
mere  imposition  and  self-delusion  .  .  .  which  men  invent  to 
justify  an  impenitent  life  ;  not  a  true,  living  faith,  the  gift  of  the 
Holy  Ghost  .  .  .  which,  as  Scripture  says,  purifies  the  heart, 
Acts  xv.  .  .  .,  reconciles  consciences,  Rom.  v.  .  .  .,  and  brings 
Christ  into  our  hearts,  Eph.  hi.,  Gal.  ii."4 

An  instructive  parallel  and  at  the  same  time  a  severe 
censure  on  Luther's  method  of  building  up  "  faith  "  on  in- 
ward assurance  is  afforded  by  Schwenckfeld's  account  of  the 
experiences  and  spiritual  trials  on  which  he  himself  had 
founded  his  faith.  The  preachers,  insisting  on  the  outward 
Word,  urged  that  he  had  no  right  to  appeal  to  his  mere 
feelings  ;  yet,  as  he  points  out,  this  very  thing  had  been 
proclaimed  from  Wittenberg  as  the  right,  nay  the  duty 
of  all. 

"  In  addition  to  all  this  they  reject  the  ghostly  feeling  and  that 
inward  sense  of  the  Grace  of  God  which  Luther  at  the  outset  .  .  . 
declared  to  be  necessary  for  salvation,  writing  that  :  '  No  one  can 
rightly  understand  God  or  the  Word  of  God  unless  he  has  it 
direct  from  the  Holy  Ghost.'  No  one,  however,  can  receive  it 
from  the  Holy  Ghost  unless  he  experiences  it,  makes  trial  of  it 
and  feels  it ;   in  this  experience  the  Holy  Ghost  is  teaching  us  as 

1  16.  2  lb.  3  lb. 

4  lb.,  p.  343  f.  Cp.  "  Epistolar,"  2,  2,  p.  912.  Ecke,  p.  176.  Cp. 
Ddllinger,  on  Schwenckfeld,  in  "  Die  Reformation,"  1,  p.  254  ff. 


in  His  own  school,  outside  of  which  nothing  is  learned  but  all  is 
mere  delusion,  words  and  vapouring."1 

"  How  would  Dr.  Luther's  own  gloss  stand,"  Schwenckfeld 
asks  elsewhere,  "  which  he  gives  on  the  words  of  the  New  Testa- 
ment, 1  Cor.  xi.  :  "  Let  a  man  prove  himself,'  and  where  he  says  : 
*  to  prove  oneself  is  to  feel  one's  faith/  etc.  ?  But  the  man  who 
feels  his  faith  will  assuredly  by  such  a  faith — which  is  a  power 
of  God  and  the  very  being  of  the  Holy  Ghost — have  forgiveness 
of  sins  and  bear  Christ  in  his  believing  heart."2 

He  reproaches  Luther  with  having  in  later  days  failed  to 
distinguish  between  the  outward  Word  or  preaching  and  the 
inward  living  Word  of  God.  The  blunt  assertion  of  the  preachers 
— which  was  encouraged  by  "  Luther's  unapostolic  treatment  of 
the  problem  of  Christian  experience"3 — that  faith  referred 
solely  to  the  written  Word  and  was  elicited  merely  by  preaching, 4 
leads  in  practice  to  neglect  of  those  passages  of  Scripture  which 
speak  of  the  Divine  character  of  faith  and  of  its  transmission  by 
the  Holy  Ghost ;  owing  to  the  lack  of  a  faith  really  felt,  there  was 
also  wanting  any  "  holiness  of  life  worked  by  the  Spirit,  and  any 
moral  justice  and  sanctification."5 

Schwenckfeld  on  the  Popular  Church  and  the  New  Divine 


The  system  of  a  State  Church  then  being  set  up,  the 
externalism  of  the  Lutheran  Popular  Church  and  the 
worship  introduced  were  naturally  looked  at  askance  by 
the  promoter  of  the  Church  Apart  of  true  believers ;  at  the 
same  time  his  strictures  are  not  unduly  biassed.6 

He  looks  at  the  matter  from  the  standpoint  of  Lutheran 
freedom,  or  as  Carl  Ecke  expresses  it,  of  "  the  early  Christian 
individualism  rediscovered  by  Luther."7  From  this  point 
of  view  Schwenckfeld  can  detect  in  the  official  Lutheran 
Church  only  a  shadow  of  the  Apostolic  Church.  Not  merely 
the  principle  of  the  multitude,  but  also  the  appeal  to  the 
authorities  for  help  and  coercion  was  opposed  to  the  spirit 
of  Christ,  at  least  according  to  all  he  had  learnt  from  Luther. 

"  He  raises  the  question  whether  that  can  possibly  be  the  true 
Church  of  Christ  where  human  coercion,  force,  commands  and 
prohibitions,  rather  than  Christian  freedom  and  willingness,  rule 
over  faith  and  conscience.  .  .  .  The  secular  sword  has  no  place 

1  "  Epistolar,"  2,  2,  p.  913.    Ecke,  p. 

2  lb.,  p.  427.    Cp.  "  Epistolar,"  I.,  p. 

3  Ecke's  words,  p.  161. 

4  "  Epistolar,"  2,  2,  p.  513,  cp.  p.  402 

5  Ecke,  p.  162. 

«    fV,     F.n.kfi     n     IAD    n     3  ? 


p.  403  ff.  ;    1,  p.  424.    Ecke,  ib. 
C^Ecke,^  160,  n.  3.  7  lb.,  p.  222. 


in  the  Churches  of  Christ,  but  belongs  to  the  secular  authorities 
for  the  punishment  of  the  wicked.  ...  As  little  as  it  is  in  the 
power  of  the  authorities  to  bestow  the  faith  on  anyone,  to 
strengthen  or  increase  it,  so  little  does  it  befit  it  to  force,  coerce 
or  urge.  .  .  .  What  the  authorities  do  here  [in  matters  of  faith] 
is  nothing  but  violence,  insolence  and  tyranny."1 

But  "  we  always  want  to  attract  the  great  crowd  !  "2  "  They 
saw  the  great  multitude  and  feared  lest  the  churches  should 
dwindle  away."3  How  were  they  to  keep  "Mr.  Omnes,  the 
common  people,  faithful  to  their  churches  without  the  help  of 
the  secular  arm  ?  "4  They  do  not  even  think  of  first  honestly 
instructing  the  magistrates  how  to  become  Christians  and  what 
the  duty  of  a  Christian  is.  ...  I  am  unable  in  conscience  to 
agree  with  those  who  make  idols  of  them  so  speedily  and  per- 
suade them  that  they  already  have  that,  which  their  own  con- 
science tells  them  they  have  never  received."5 

At  the  Supper,  too,  so  he  complains,  owing  to  the  want  of  proper 
discrimination  between  the  converted  and  unconverted,  "  a  false 
security  of  conscience  is  aroused,  whereby  people  are  led  away 
from  true  repentance  ;  for  they  teach  that  it  is  a  source  of 
grace,  indulgence,  ablution  of  sin,  and  salvation,  whereas  it  is  plain 
that  no  one  receives  anything  of  the  kind."6  In  his  view  it  is 
not  right  to  say  that  the  Supper  leads  man  to  reconciliation  with 
God  by  enlivening  his  faith,  and  that  even  that  man  "  who  is 
full  of  sin  or  has  a  bad  conscience  gnawed  and  bitten  by  his  sins  " 
should  receive  it,  as  the  preachers  teach  ;7  on  the  contrary,  only 
those  who  are  reconciled  have  the  right  to  approach.  "  Not  the 
man  who  wants  to  be  holy  [the  unjustified],  but  he  who  has 
already  been  hallowed  by  Christ,  is  fit  for  the  Supper."8 

From  the  standpoint  of  his  own  peculiar  doctrine  he  charac- 
terises it  as  a  downright  error  on  Luther's  part  to  have  "  put 
Justification  even  into  the  Sacrament  " — Schwenckfeld  himself 
had  thrown  all  the  sacraments  overboard. — He  also  reproaches 
Luther  with  teaching,  that  :  "  Forgiveness  of  sins,  which  is  only 
to  be  found  in  Christ  as  ruler,  is  to  be  sought  in  the  Sacrament."9 

Now,  Schwenckfeld  was  far  from  advising  people  to  for- 
sake the  official  Church  ;  he  did  not  recommend  that  the 
church  service  and  its  ceremonies  and  sermons  should  be 
shunned,  he  feared  lest  such  advice  might  play  into  the 
hands  of  the  Anabaptists.  He  recommends  as  necessary 
an  "external  practice  of  godliness."10  Yet,  according  to 
him,   this   was   more  readily   carried   out   in  private   con- 

1  Ecke,  p.  180  f.  ;   from  MS.  sources. 

2  "  Epistolar,"  2,  2,  p.  639.    Ecke,  p.  179. 

3  "  Epistolar,"  1,  p.  99.    Ecke,  p.  181.         4  lb.    Ecke,  p.  182. 

6  lb.,  1,  p.  92.    Ecke,  p.  181.  6  lb.,  p.  736.    Ecke,  p.  182. 

7  "  Christl.  Biicher,"  p.  363.    Ecke,  p.  173. 

8  lb.  »  "  Epistolar,"  2,  2,  p.  1014.    Ecke,  p.  160. 
10  Ecke,  p.  227,  MS. 

164         LUTHER  THE  REFORMER 

venticles,  i.e.  in  some  sort  of  congregation  apart  of  the  true 
believers  such  as  Luther  himself  had  long  dreamt  of,  and 
in  conversation  with  Schwenckfeld,  in  1525,  regretted  his 
inability  to  establish  owing  to  the  fewness  of  true  Christians. 
(Above,  p.  138  f.) 

Luther  in  the  meantime  had  become  reconciled  to  the 
outer,  Popular,  Church,  and,  with  his  preachers'  help,  had 
made  of  the  outward  Word  a  law. 

The  imperious  behaviour  of  Luther  and  the  preachers 
in  the  matter  of  the  outward  Word  was,  however,  odious 
to  Schwenckfeld.  He  protested  strongly  against  being  tied 
down  to  professions  of  faith  liable  at  any  moment  to  be 
rendered  obsolete  by  new  discoveries  in  Scripture  truth.1 
Interest  in  things  Divine  was  regarded  as  a  privilege  of  the 
pastor's  office  and  the  layman  was  kept  in  ignorance  on  the 
ground,  that  "  one  must  believe  blindly."2  Luther  "  is 
setting  up  a  new  tyranny,  and  wishes  to  tie  men  to  his 

i  "  Christl.  Biicher,"  pp.  962,  965.    Ecke,  p.  191. 

2  "  Epistolar,"  1,  p.  173.    "  Christl.  Biicher,"  p.  74  f.,  549.    Ecke,  ib. 

3  "  Epistolar,"  1,  p.  iii.  B.    Ecke,  p.  86. 



1.  The  Great  Victories  of  1540-1544 

The  opening  of  the  Diet  of  Ratisbon  in  1541  •  coincided  with 
the  advance  of  Protestantism  in  one  of  the  strongholds  of 
the  power  and  influence  of  Albert  of  Mayence.  The  usual 
residence  of  the  Archbishop  and  Elector  was  at  Halle,  in 
his  diocese  of  Magdeburg.  Against  this  town  accordingly 
all  the  already  numerous  Protestants  in  Albert's  sees  of 
Magdeburg  and  Halberstadt  directed  their  united  efforts. 
Albert  was  compelled  by  the  local  Landtag  to  abolish  the 
Catholic  so-called  "  Neue  Stift  "  at  Halle,  and  to  remove 
his  residence  to  Mayence.  Thereupon  Jonas,  Luther's 
friend,  at  once,  on  Good  Friday,  1541,  commenced  to  preach 
at  the  church  of  St.  Mary's  at  Halle.  He  then  became 
permanent  preacher  and  head  of  the  growing  movement 
in  the  town,  while  two  other  churches  were  also  seized  by 
Lutheran  preachers. 

The  town  and  bishopric  of  Naumburg,  which  had  been 
much  neglected  by  its  bishop,  Prince  Philip  of  Bavaria, 
who  resided  at  Freising,  fell  a  prey  to  the  innovations  under 
the  Elector  Johann  Frederick  of  Saxony  ;  this  in  spite  of 
being  an  imperial  city  under  the  immediate  protection  of  the 
Emperor.  The  Elector  had  taken  advantage  of  his  position 
as  arbitrator,  thanks  to  his  influence  and  to  the  authority 
he  soon  secured,  gradually  to  establish  himself  in  Naumburg. 
By  his  orders,  in  1541,  as  soon  as  Philip  was  dead,  Nicholas 
Medler  began  to  preach  at  the  Cathedral  as  "  Superintendent 
of  Naumburg  "  ;  Julius  Pflug,  the  excellent  Provost,  who  had 
been  elected  bishop  by  the  Cathedral  chapter,  was  prevented 
by  the  Elector  from  taking  possession  of  the  see.     Even  the 

1  See  above,  vol.  iv.,  p.  367. 


Wittenberg  theologians  were  rather  surprised  at  the  haste 
and  violence  with  which  the  Elector  proceeded  to  upset  the 
religious  conditions  there,  and — a  matter  which  concerned 
him  deeply — to  seize  the  city  and  the  whole  diocese.  (See 
below,  p.  191  f .) 

The  storm  was  already  gathering  over  the  archbishopric 
of  Cologne  under  the  weak  and  illiterate  Archbishop,  Her- 
mann von  Wied.  This  man,  who  was  in  reality  more  of  a 
secular  ruler,  after  having  in  earlier  days  shown  himself 
kindly  disposed  to  the  Church,  was  won  over,  first  by  Peter 
Medmann  in  1539  and  then  by  Martin  Bucer  in  1541,  and 
persuaded  to  introduce  Lutheranism.  Only  by  the  energetic 
resistance  of  the  chapter,  and  particularly  of  the  chief 
Catholics  of  the  archdiocese,  was  the  danger  warded  off  ; 
to  them  the  Archbishop  owed,  first  his  removal,  and  then 
his  excommunication. 

On  March  28,  1546,  shortly  before  the  excommunication, 
the  Emperor  Charles  V  said  to  Landgrave  Philip  of  Hesse, 
who  had  been  pleading  the  cause  of  Hermann  :  "  Why  does 
he  start  novelties  ?  He  knows  no  Latin,  and,  in  his  whole 
life,  has  only  said  three  Masses,  two  of  which  I  attended 
myself.  He  does  not  even  understand  the  Confiteor.  To 
reform  does  not  mean  to  bring  in  another  belief  or  another 

"  We  are  beholders  of  the  wonders  of  God,"  so  Luther 
wrote  to  Hermann  Bonn,  his  preacher,  at  Osnabriick ; 
M  such  great  Princes  and  Bishops  are  now  being  called  of 
God  by  the  working  of  the  Holy  Ghost."2  He  was  speaking 
not  only  of  the  misguided  Archbishop  of  Cologne  but  also 
of  the  Bishop  of  Munster  and  Osnabriick,  who  had  intro- 
duced the  new  teaching  at  Osnabriick  by  means  of  Bonn, 
Superintendent  of  Liibeck.  Luther,  however,  was  rather 
too  sanguine.  In  the  same  year  he  announced  to  Duke 
Albert  of  Prussia  :  "  The  two  bishops  of  '  Collen  '  and 
Munster,  have,  praise  be  to  God,  accepted  the  Evangel  in 
earnest,  strongly  as  the  Canons  oppose  it.  Things  are  also 
well  forward  in  the  Duchy  of  Brunswick."3  As  a  matter 
of   fact  he  turned  out  right  only  as  regards  Brunswick. 

1  Ch.  v.  Rommel,  "  Philipp  der  Grossmiithige,  Landgraf  von 
Hessen,"  1,  1820,  p.  517. 

2  Aug.  5,  1543,  "  Briefe,"  ed.  De  Wette,  5,  p.  580. 

3  May  7,  1543,  "  Briefe,"  5,  p.  557. 

PROGRESS   OF  THE   CAUSE        167 

Henry,  the  Catholic  Duke,  was  expelled  in  1542  by  the 
Elector  of  Saxony  and  the  Landgrave  of  Hesse  after  the 
war  which  broke  out  on  account  of  Goslar  had  issued  in  his 
loss  of  the  stronghold  of  Wolfenbiittel ;  thereupon  with  the 
help  of  Bugenhagen  the  churches  of  the  land  were  forcibly 
brought  over  to  Lutheranism. 

In  1544  the  appointment  at  Merseburg  of  a  bishop  of  the 
new  faith  in  the  person  of  George  of  Anhalt  followed  on 
Duke  Maurice  of  Saxony's  illegal  seizure  of  the  see.  So  bare- 
faced was  this  act  of  spoliation  that  even  Luther  entered 
a  protest  against  "  this  rapacious  onslaught  on  Church 
property."1  The  appointment  of  an  "  Evangelical  bishop  " 
at  Naumburg  took  place  in  1542  under  similar  circumstances. 

From  Metz,  where  the  preacher  Guillaume  Farel  was  work- 
ing for  the  Reformation,  an  application  was  received  for 
admission  into  the  Schmalkalden  League.  The  Lutherans 
there  received  at  least  moral  support  from  Melanchthon 
who,  in  the  name  of  the  League,  addressed  a  writing  to  the 
Duke  of  Lorraine.  Not  only  distant  Transylvania,  but  even 
Venice,  held  correspondence  with  Luther  in  order  to  obtain 
from  him  advice  and  instructions  concerning  the  Protestant 
congregations  already  existing  in  those  regions. 

Thus  the  author  of  the  religious  upheaval  might  well 
congratulate  himself,  when,  in  the  evening  of  his  days,  he 
surveyed  the  widespread  influence  of  his  work. 

He  was  at  the  same  time  well  aware  what  a  potent  factor 
in  all  this  progress  was  the  danger  which  menaced  Germany 
from  the  Turks.  The  Protestant  Estates  continued  to  ex- 
ploit the  distress  of  the  Empire  to  their  own  advantage  in 
a  spirit  far  from  loyal.  They  insisted  on  the  Emperor's 
granting  their  demands  within  the  Empire  before  they 
would  promise  effectual  aid  against  the  foe  without  ;  their 
conduct  was  quite  inexcusable  at  such  a  time,  when  a  new 
attack  on  Vienna  was  momentarily  apprehended,  and  when 
the  King  of  France  was  quite  openly  supporting  the  Turks. 

In  the  meantime  as  a  result  of  the  negotiations  an  Imperial 
army  was  raised  and  Luther  published  his  prudent  "  Ver- 
manunge  zum  Gebet  wider  den  Turcken."  In  this  he 
advised  the  princes  to  do  their  duty  both  towards  God 
and  the  Evangel  and  towards  the  Empire  by  defending  it 
against  the  foe.     The  Pope  is  as  much  an  enemy  as  the 

1  Kostlin-Kawerau,  2,  p.  562. 


Turk,  and  the  world  has  reached  its  close,  for  the  last  Judg- 
ment is  at  hand.1 

The  Emperor  found  it  advisable  to  show  himself  even 
more  lenient  than  before  ;  the  violent  encroachments  of 
the  Protestants,  which  so  unexpectedly  strengthened  their 
position,  were  allowed  to  pass  unresisted  ;  the  ecclesiastical 
and  temporal  penalties  pronounced  against  the  promoters 
of  the  innovations  remained  a  dead  letter,  and  for  the  time 
being  the  Church  property  was  left  in  their  hands.  At  the 
Diet  of  Spires,  in  1544,  the  settlement  was  deferred  to  a 
General  Council  which  the  Reichsabschied  describes  as  a 
"  Free  Christian  Council  within  the  German  Nation." 

As  was  only  to  be  expected,  Paul  III,  the  supreme  head 
of  Christendom,  energetically  protested  against  such  a 
decision.  With  dignity,  and  in  the  supreme  consciousness  of 
his  rights  and  position,  the  Pope  reminded  the  Emperor  that 
a  Council  had  long  since  been  summoned  (above,  vol.  iii., 
p.  424)  and  was  only  being  delayed  on  account  of  the  war. 
It  did  not  become  the  civil  power,  nor  even  the  Emperor, 
to  inaugurate  the  religious  settlement,  least  of  all  at  the 
expense  of  the  rights  of  Church  and  Pope  as  had  been  the 
case  ;  to  the  Vicar  of  Christ  and  the  assembly  summoned 
by  him  it  fell  to  secure  the  unity  of  the  Church  and  to  lay 
down  the  conditions  of  reunion  ;  yet  the  civil  power  had 
left  the  Pope  in  the  lurch  in  his  previous  endeavours  to 
summon  a  Council  and  to  establish  peace  in  Germany  ; 
"  God  was  his  witness  that  he  had  nothing  more  at  heart 
than  to  see  the  whole  of  the  noble  German  people  reunited 
in  faith  and  all  charity  "  ;  "  willingly  would  he  spend  life 
and  blood,  as  his  conscience  bore  him  witness,  in  the  attempt 
to  bring  this  about  in  the  right  way."  2 

These  admonitions  fell  on  deaf  ears,  as  the  evil  work  was 
already  done.  The  consent,  which,  by  dint  of  defiance  and 
determination,  the  Protestant  princes  wrung  from  Empire 
and  Emperor,  secured  the  triumph  of  the  religious  revolution 
in  ever  wider  circles. 

1  "  Werke,"  Erl.  ed.,  32,  p.  75  ff.    Cp.  above,  vol.  iii.,  p.  91  ff. 

2  Letter  to  the  Emperor  Charles  V,  Aug.  24,  1544,  in  Raynaldus, 
"  Annales,"  a.  1544  ;  in  German  in  "  Luthers  Werke,"  Walch's  ed., 
17,  p.  1253  ff.  For  the  former  attitude  of  the  Papacy  to  the  idea  of  the 
Council,  cp.  our  vol.  iii.,  p.  424  ff . 


2.   Sad  Forebodings 

In  spite  of  all  his  outward  success,  Luther,  at  the  height 
of  his  triumph,  was  filled  with  melancholy  forebodings 
concerning  the  future  of  his  work. 

He  felt  more  and  more  that  the  new  Churches  then  being 
established  lacked  inward  stability,  and  that  the  principle 
on  which  they  were  built  was  wanting  in  unity,  cohesion 
and  permanence.  Neither  for  the  protection  of  the  faith 
nor  for  the  maintenance  of  an  independent  system  of 
Church  government  were  the  necessary  provisions  forth- 
coming. Indeed,  owing  to  the  very  nature  of  his  under- 
taking, it  was  impossible  that  such  could  be  effectually  sup- 
plied ;  thus  a  vision  of  coming  disunion,  particularly  in  the 
domain  of  doctrine,  unrolled  itself  before  his  eyes  ;  this 
was  one  of  the  factors  which  saddened  him. 

As  early  as  the  'thirties  we  find  him  giving  vent  to  his 
fears  of  an  ever-increasing  disintegration.  In  the  'forties  they 
almost  assume  the  character  of  definite  prophecies. 

In  the  Table-Talk  of  1538,  which  was  noted  down  by  the 
Deacon  Lauterbach,  he  seeks  comfort  in  the  thought  that  every 
fresh  revival  of  religion  had  been  accompanied  by  quarrels  due 
to  false  brethren,  by  heresies  and  decay  ;  it  was  true  that  now 
"the  morning  star  had  arisen"  owing  to  his  preaching,  but  he 
feared  "  that  this  light  would  not  endure  for  long,  not  for  more 
than  fifty  years";  the  Word  of  God  would  "again  decline  for 
want  of  able  ministers  of  the  Word."1  "  There  will  come  want 
and  spiritual  famine  "  ;  "  many  new  interpretations  will  arise, 
and  the  Bible  will  no  longer  hold.  Owing  to  the  sects  that  will 
spring  up  I  would  rather  I  had  not  printed  my  books."2 

"  I  fear  that  the  best  is  already  over  and  that  now  the  sects 
will  follow."3  The  pen  was  growing  heavy  to  his  fingers  ;  there 
"  will  be  no  end  to  the  writings,"  he  says  ;  "I  have  outlived 
three  frightful  storms,  Miinzer,  the  Sacramentarians  and  the 
Anabaptists  ;  these  are  over,  but  now  others  will  come."  "  I 
wish  not  to  live  any  longer  since  no  peace  is  to  be  hoped  for."4 
"  The  Evangel  is  endangered  by  the  sectarians,  the  revolutionary 
peasants  and  the  belly  servers,  just  as  once  the  Roman  empire 
was  at  Rome."5 

"  On  June  27  [1538],"  we  read,  "  Dr.  Luther  and  Master  Philip 
were  dining  together  at  his  house.  They  spoke  much,  with  many 
a  sigh,  of  the  coming  times  when  many  dangers  would  arise." 
The  greatest  confusion  would  prevail.     No  one  would  then  allow 

1  Lauterbach,  "  Tagebuch,"  p.  172  f.  2  76.,  p.  62. 

3  lb.,  p.  70.  *  lb.,  p.  114.  5  lb.,  p.  80. 


himself  to  be  guided  by  the  doctrine  or  authority  of  another. 
"  Each  one  will  wish  to  be  his  own  Rabbi,  like  Osiander  and 
Agricola.  From  this  the  worst  scandals  and  the  greatest  desola- 
tion will  come.  Hence  it  would  be  best  [one  said],  that  the 
Princes  should  forestall  it  by  some  council,  if  only  the  Papists 
would  not  hold  back  and  flee  from  the  light.  Master  Philip 
replied  :  The  Pope  will  never  be  brought  to  hold  a  General 
Council.  .  .  .  Oh,  that  our  Princes  and  the  Estates  would  bring 
about  a  council  and  some  sort  of  unity  in  doctrine  and  worship 
so  as  to  prevent  each  one  undertaking  something  on  his  own 
account  to  the  scandal  of  many,  as  some  are  already  doing.  The 
Church  is  a  spectacle  of  woe,  with  so  much  weakness  and  scandal 
heaped  upon  her."1 

Shortly  after  this  Luther  instituted  a  comparison — which  for 
him  must  have  been  very  sad — between  the  "  false  Church  [of 
the  Pope]  which  stands  erect,  a  cheerful  picture  of  dignity, 
strength  and  holiness,"  and  the  Church  of  Christ  "  which  lies 
in  such  misery  and  ignominy,  sin  and  insignificance  as  though 
God  had  no  care  for  her."  He  fancied  he  could  find  some  slight 
comfort  in  the  Article  of  the  Creed  :  "I  believe  in  the  Holy 
Church,"  for,  so  he  observes,  "  because  we  don't  see  it,  therefore 
we  believe  in  it."2 

In  the  midst  of  the  great  successes  of  those  years  he  still  gives 
utterance  to  the  gloomiest  of  predictions  for  the  future  of  his 
doctrine,  which  dissensions  would  eat  to  the  very  core.  His  pupil 
Mathesius  reports  him  as  holding  forth  as  follows  : 

"  Alas,  good  God,"  he  groaned  in  1540,  "  how  we  have  to  surfer 
from  divisions  !  .  .  .  And  many  more  sects  will  come.  For  the 
spirit  of.  lies  and  murder  does  not  sleep.  .  .  .  But  God  will  save 
His  Christendom."3 — In  1542  someone  remarked  in  his  presence  : 
"  Were  the  world  to  last  fifty  years  longer  many  things  would 
happen."  Thereupon  Luther  interjected  :  "  God  forbid,  things 
would  get  worse  than  ever  before  ;  for  many  sects  will  arise  which 
yet  are  hidden  in  men's  hearts,  so  that  we  shall  not  know  how 
we  stand.  Hence,  dear  Lord,  come  with  Thy  Judgment  Day,  for 
no  further  improvement  is  now  to  be  looked  for  !  "4 — After 
instancing  the  principal  sects  that  had  arisen  up  to  that  time  he 
said,  in  1540  :  "  After  our  death  many  sects  will  arise,  God 
help  us  !  "5  "  But  whoever  after  my  death  despises  the  authority 
of  this  school — so  long  as  the  Church  and  the  school  remain  as 
they  are — is  a  heretic  and  an  evil  man.  For  in  this  school  [of 
Wittenberg]  God  has  revealed  His  Word,  and  this  school  and  town 
can  take  a  place  side  by  side  with  any  others  in  the  matter  of 
doctrine  and  life,  even  though  our  life  be  not  yet  quite  above 
reproach.  .  .  .  Those  who  flee  from  us  and  secretly  contemn  us 
have  denied  the  faith.  .  .  .  Who  knew  anything  five-and- twenty 

1  lb.,  p.  91  f.  Cp.  "  Colloq."  ed.  Bindseil,  3,  p.  90  sq.  ;  "  Werke," 
Erl.  ed.,  62,  p.  42  f. 

2  Lauterbach,  "  Tagebuch,"  p.  101. 

3  Mathesius,  "  Tischreden,"  p.  138.  4  lb.,  p.  287. 
5   lb.,  p.  231. 


years  ago  [before  my  preaching  started]  ?  Alas  for  ambition  ; 
it  is  the  cause  of  all  the  misfortunes."1 

Frequently  he  reverts  to  the  theory,  that  the  Church  must 
needs  put  up  with  onsets  and  temptations  to  despair.  "  Now 
even  greater  despair  has  come  upon  us  on  account  of  the  sec- 
tarians," he  said  in  1537  ;  "  the  Church  is  in  despair  according 
to  the  words  of  the  Psalmist  (cviii.  92)  :  '  Unless  Thy  Law  had 
been  my  meditation  I  had  then  perhaps  perished  in  my  abjec- 
tion.' "2 

At  an  earlier  period  (1531)  a  sermon  of  Luther's  vividly 
pictures  this  despair  :  "  If,  in  spiritual  matters,  it  comes  about, 
that  the  devil  sows  his  seed  in  Christ's  kingdom  and  it  springs 
up  both  in  doctrine  and  life,  then  we  have  a  crop  of  misery  and 
distress.  In  the  preaching  it  happens,  that  although  God  has 
appointed  one  man  and  commanded  him  to  preach  the  Evangel, 
yet  others  are  found  even  amongst  his  pupils  who  think  they  know 
how  to  do  it  ten  times  better  than  he.  .  .  .  Every  man  wants 
to  be  master  in  doctrine.  .  .  .  Now  they  are  saying  :  '  Why 
should  not  we  have  the  Spirit  and  understand  Scripture  just  as 
well  as  anyone  else  ?  '  Thus  a  new  doctrine  is  at  once  set  up  and 
sects  are  formed.  .  .  .  Hence  a  deadly  peril  to  Christendom 
ensues,  for  it  is  torn  asunder  and  pure  doctrine  everywhere 
perishes."3  Christ  had  indeed  "  foretold  that  this  would  happen"; 
true  enough,  it  is  not  forbidden  to  anyone  "  who  holds  the  public 
office  of  preacher  to  judge  of  doctrine  "  ;  but  whoever  has  not 
such  an  office  has  no  right  to  do  so  ;  if  he  does  this  of  "  his  own 
doctrine  and  spirit,"  then  "  I  call  such  judging  of  doctrine  one 
of  the  greatest,  most  shameful  and  most  wicked  vices  to  be  found 
upon  earth,  one  from  which  all  the  factious  spirits  have  arisen."4 

Duke  George  of  Saxony  unfeelingly  pointed  out  to  the  innovator 
that  his  fear,  that  many,  very  many  indeed,  would  say  :  "  Do 
we  not  also  possess  the  Spirit  and  understand  Scripture  as  well 
as  you  ?  "  would  only  too  surely  be  realised. 

"  What  man  on  earth,"  wrote  the  Duke  in  his  usual  downright 
fashion,  "  ever  hitherto  undertook  a  more  foolish  task  than  you 
in  seeking  to  include  in  your  sect  all  Christians,  especially  those 
of  the  German  nation  ?  Success  is  as  likely  in  your  case  as  it 
was  in  that  of  those  who  set  about  building  a  tower  in  Babylonia 
which  was  to  reach  the  very  heavens  ;  in  the  end  they  had  to 
cease  from  building,  and  the  result  was  seventy-two  new  tongues. 
The  same  will  befall  you  ;  you  also  will  have  to  stop,  and  the 
result  will  be  seventy- two  new  sects."6 

Luther's  letters  speak  throughout  in  a  similar  strain  of 
the  divisions  already  existing  and  the  gloomy  outlook  for 
the  future  ;  in  the  'forties  his  lamentation  over  the  approach - 

1  lb.,  p.  169.  2  lb.,  p.  417. 

3  "  Werke,"  Weim.  ed.,  32,  p.  474  ;    Erl.  ed.,  43,  p.  263. 

4  lb.,  p.  475  =  264  f. 

5  In  the  "  Antwort  auf  das  Schmahbuchlein,"  etc.,  "  Luthers 
Werke,"  Erl.  ed.,  252,  p.  146. 


ing  calamities  becomes,  however,  even  louder  than  usual 
in  spite  of  the  apparent  progress  of  his  cause.  Much  of  what 
he  says  puts  us  vividly  in  mind  of  Duke  George's  words  just 

Amidst  the  excitement  of  his  struggle  with  the  fanatics 
he  wrote  as  early  as  1525  to  the  "  Christians  at  Antwerp  "  : 
"  The  tiresome  devil  begins  to  rage  amongst  the  ungodly 
and  to  belch  forth  many  wild  and  mazy  beliefs  and  doctrines. 
This  man  will  have  nothing  of  baptism,  that  one  denies  the 
Sacrament,  a  third  awaits  another  world  between  this  and 
the  Last  Day  ;  some  teach  that  Christ  is  not  God  ;  some 
say  this,  some  that,  and  there  are  as  many  sects  and  beliefs 
as  there  are  heads  ;  no  peasant  is  so  rude  but  that  if  he 
dreams  or  fancies  something,  it  must  forsooth  be  the  Holy 
Spirit  which  inspires  him,  and  he  himself  must  be  a  prophet."1 

After  the  bitter  experiences  of  the  intervening  years  we  find 
in  a  letter  of  1536  this  bitter  lament  :  "  Pray  for  me  that  I  too 
may  be  delivered  from  certain  ungodly  men,  seeing  you  rejoice 
that  God  has  delivered  you  from  the  Anabaptists  and  the  sects. 
For  new  prophets  are  constantly  arising  against  me  one  after  the 
other,  so  that  I  almost  wish  to  be  dissolved  in  order  not  to  see 
such  evils  without  end,  and  to  be  set  free  at  last  from  this  kingdom 
of  the  devil."2 

Even  in  the  strong  pillars  of  the  Evangel,  in  the  Landgrave  of 
Hesse  and  Bucer  the  theologian,  he  apprehended  treason  to  his 
cause  and  complains  of  them  as  "  false  brethren."  At  the  time 
of  the  negotiations  at  Ratisbon,  in  1541,  he  exclaims  in  a  letter  to 
Melanchthon  :  "  They  are  making  advances  to  the  Emperor  and 
to  our  foes,  and  look  on  our  cause  as  a  comedy  to  be  played  out 
among  the  people,  though  as  is  evident  it  is  a  tragedy  between 
God  and  Satan  in  which  Satan's  side  has  the  upper  hand  and 
God's  comes  off  second  best.  ...  I  say  this  with  anger  and  am 
incensed  at  their  games.  But  so  it  must  be  ;  the  fact  that  we 
are  endangered  by  false  brethren  likens  us  to  the  Apostle  Paul, 
nay,  to  the  whole  Church,  and  is  the  sure  seal  that  God  stamps 
upon  us."3 

In  spite  of  this  "  seal  of  God,"  he  is  annoyed  to  see  how  his 
Evangel  becomes  the  butt  of  "  heretical  attacks  "  from  within, 
and  suffers  from  the  disintegrating  and  destructive  influence  of 
the  immorality  and  godlessness  of  many  of  his  followers. 

This,  for  instance,  he  bewails  in  a  letter  of  condolence  sent  in 
1541  to  Wenceslaus  Link  of  Nuremberg.    At  Nuremberg  accord- 

1  April,  1525,  "  Werke,"  Weim.  ed.,  18,  p.  547  ;  Erl.  ed.,  53,  p.  342 
("  Brief wechsel,"  5,  p.  151). 

2  To  the  Preacher  Balthasar  Raida  of  Hersfeld,  Jan.  17,  1536, 
"  Briefwechsel,"  10,  p.  288. 

3  April  4,  1541,  "  Briefwechsel,"  13,  p.  291. 


ing  to  Link's  account  the  evil  seemed  to  be  assuming  a  menacing 
shape.  Not  the  foe  without,  writes  Luther,  but  rather  "  our 
great  gainsayers  within,  who  repay  us  with  contempt,  are  the 
danger  we  must  fear,  according  to  the  words  of  the  common 
prophecy  :  '  After  Antichrist  has  been  revealed  men  will  come 
who  say :  There  is  no  God ! '  This  we  see  everywhere  fulfilled 
to-day.  .  .  .  They  think  our  words  are  but  human  words  !  "1 

About  this  time  he  often  contemplates  with  sadness  the 
abundance  of  other  crying  disorders  in  his  Churches, 2  the  wanton- 
ness of  the  great  and  the  decadence  of  the  people  ;  he  cries  : 
"  Hasten,  O  Jesus,  Thy  coming  ;  the  evils  have  come  to  a  head 
and  the  end  cannot  be  delayed.  Amen."3  "  I  am  sick  of  life  if 
this  life  can  be  called  life.  .  .  .  Implacable  hatred  and  strife 
amongst  the  great  ...  no  hopes  of  any  improvement  .  .  .  the 
age  is  Satan's  own  ;  gladly  would  I  see  myself  and  all  my  people 
quickly  snatched  from  it  !  "4  The  evil  spirit  of  apostasy  and 
fanatism  which  had  raged  so  terribly  at  Minister,  was  now, 
according  to  him,  particularly  busy  amongst  the  great  ones,  just 
as  formerly  it  had  laid  hold  on  the  peasants.  "  May  God  prevent 
him  and  resist  him,  the  evil  spirit,  for  truly  he  means  mischief."5 

And  yet  he  still  in  his  own  way  hopes  in  God  and  clings  to  the 
idea  of  his  call  ;  God  will  soon  mock  at  the  devil  :  "  The  working 
of  Satan  is  patent,  but  God  at  Whom  they  now  laugh  will  mock 
at  Satan  in  His  own  time."6 

We  can  understand  after  such  expressions  descriptive 
of  his  state  of  mind,  the  assurance  with  which,  for  all  his 
confidence  of  victory,  he  frequently  seems  to  forecast  the 
certain  downfall  of  his  cause.  In  the  German  Table-Talk, 
for  instance,  we  read  :  "So  long  as  those  who  are  now  living 
and  who  teach  the  Word  of  God  diligently  are  still  with  us, 
those  who  have  seen  and  heard  me,  Philip,  Pomeranus  and 
other  pious,  faithful  and  honest  teachers,  all  may  be  well  ; 
but  when  they  all  are  gone  and  this  age  is  over,  there  will 
be  a  falling  away."7  He  also  sees  how  two  great  and  widely 
differing  parties  will  arise  among  his  followers  :  unbelievers 
on  the  one  hand  and  Pietists  and  fanatics  on  the  other  ; 
we  have  a  characteristic  prophecy  of  the  sort  where  he  says 
of  the  one  party,  that,  like  the  Epicureans,  they  would 

1  To  Wenceslaus  Link,  Sep.  8,  1541,  "  Briefe,"  5,  p.  398. 

2  To  the  Elector  Johann  Frederick,  Jan.  18,  1545,  ib.,  p.  716  :  "  I 
will  have  them  [the  lawyers]  eternally  damned  and  cursed  in  my 

3  To  Justus  Jonas,  Dec.  16,  1543,  ib.,  p.  612. 
*  To  Jacob  Probst,  Dec.  5,  1544,  ib.,  p.  703. 

5  To  Amsdorf,  Jan.  8,  1546,  ib.,  p.  773  f.  6  lb.,  p.  774. 

7  Cp.  (E.  v.  Jarcke)  "  Studien  und  Skizzen  z.  Gesch.  d.  Ref.,"  1846, 
p.  68. 


acknowledge  "  no  God  or  other  life  after  this,"  and  of  the 
other,  that  many  people  would  come  out  of  the  school  of 
enthusiasm,  "  following  their  own  ideas  and  speculations  and 
boasting  of  the  Spirit  "  ;  "  drunk  with  their  own  virtues 
and  having  their  understanding  darkened,"  they  would 
"  obstinately  insist  on  their  own  fancies  and  yield  to  no 

And  again  he  says  sadly  :  "  God  will  sweep  His  threshing- 
floor.  I  pray  that  after  my  death  my  wife  and  children 
may  not  long  survive  me  ;  very  dangerous  times  are  at 
hand."2  "  I  pray  God,"  he  frequently  said,  "  to  take  away 
this  our  generation  with  us,  for,  when  once  we  are  gone,  the 
worst  of  times  will  follow."3  The  preacher,  "  M.  Antonius 
Musa  once  said,"  so  he  recalls  :  "  We  old  preachers  only 
vex  the  world,  but  on  you  young  ones  the  world  will  pour 
out  its  wrath  ;   therefore  take  heed  to  yourselves."4 

This  is  not  the  place  to  investigate  historically  the  fulfil- 
ment of  these  predictions.  We  shall  content  ourselves  with 
quoting,  in  connection  with  Musa,  the  words  of  another 
slightly  later  preacher.  Cyriacus  Spangenberg  saw  in 
Luther  a  prophet,  for  one  reason  because  his  gloomiest  pre- 
dictions were  being  fulfilled  before  the  eyes  of  all.  In  the 
third  sermon  of  his  book,  "  Luther  the  Man  of  God,"  he 
shows  to  what  frightful  contempt  the  preachers  of  Luther's 
unadulterated  doctrine  were  everywhere  exposed,  just  as  he 
himself  (Spangenberg)  was  hated  and  persecuted  for  being 
over-zealous  for  the  true  faith  of  the  "  Saint  "  of  Witten- 
berg. "  Ah,"  he  says  in  a  sermon  in  1563  couched  in  Luther's 
style,  "  Shame  on  thy  heart,  thy  neck,  thy  tongue,  thou 
filthy  and  accursed  world.  Thy  blasphemy,  fornication,  un- 
chastity,  gluttony  and  drunkenness  .  .  .  are  not  thought 
too  much  ;  but  that  such  should  be  scolded  is  too  much. 
...  If  this  be  not  the  devil  himself,  then  it  is  something 
very  like  him  and  is  assuredly  his  mother."5 

3.  Provisions  for  the  Future 

Luther  failed  to  make  the  effectual  and  systematic  efforts 
called  for  in  order  to  stave  off  the  fate  to  which  he  foresaw 
his  work  would  be  exposed.     He  was  not  the  man  to  put 

1  lb.         2  Lauterbach,  "  Tagebuch,"  p.  158.         3  lb.,  p.  198. 
«  lb.,  p.  200.         5  "  Theander  Lutherus,"  Ursel  s.a.,  Bl.  59'. 


matters  in  order,  quite  apart  from  the  unsurmountable 
difficulties  this  would  have  involved,  seeing  he  possessed  little 
talent  for  organisation.  He  was  very  well  aware  that  one 
expedient  would  be  to  surrender  church  government  almost 
entirely  into  the  hands  of  the  secular  authorities. 


A  Protestant  Council? 

The  negotiations  which  preceded  the  (Ecumenical  Council 
of  the  Catholic  Church,  had  for  one  result  not  only  to  impress 
the  innovators  with  a  sense  of  their  own  unsettled  state,  but 
to  lead  them  to  discuss  the  advisability  of  holding  a  great 
Protestant  council  of  their  own.  Luther  himself,  however, 
wisely  held  aloof  from  such  a  plan,  nay  his  opposition  to 
it  was  one  of  the  main  obstacles  which  prevented  its  fulfil- 

When  the  idea  was  first  mooted  in  1533  it  was  rejected 
by  Luther  and  his  theologians  Jonas,  Bugenhagen  and 
Melanchthon  in  a  joint  memorandum.  "  Because  it  is 
plain,"  so  they  declare,  "  that  we  ourselves  are  not  at  one, 
and  must  first  of  all  consider  how  we  are  to  arrive  at  unity 
amongst  ourselves.  In  short,  though  an  opposition  council 
might  be  good  and  useful  it  is  needless  to  speak  of  such  a 
thing  just  now."1 

In  1537  the  Landgrave  of  Hesse,  and  more  particularly 
the  Elector  of  Saxony,  again  proposed  at  Schmalkalden 
that  Luther,  following  the  example  of  the  Greeks  and  the 
Bohemians,  should  summon  a  council  of  his  own,  a  national 
Evangelical  council,  to  counteract  the  Papal  Council.2  The 
Elector  proposed  that  it  should  be  assembled  at  Augsburg 
and  comprise  at  least  250  preachers  and  men  of  the  law  ; 
the  Emperor  might  be  invited  to  attend  and  a  considerable 
army  was  also  to  be  drafted  to  Augsburg  for  the  protection 
of  the  assembly.  At  that  time  Luther's  serious  illness  saved 
him  from  an  embarrassing  situation. 

Bucer  and  Melanchthon  were  now  the  sole  supporters  of 

1  After  June  16,  1533,  "  Werke,"  Erl.  ed.,  55,  p.  20.  ("  Brief  - 
wechsel,"  9,  p.  312.)  The  passage  in  question  in  the  original  at 
Weimar  is  in  Melanchthon's  handwriting.  Cp.  Enders,  p.  313,  on  the 
historical  connection  of  the  memorandum. 

2  "  Corp.  ref.,"  3,  p.  139  sqq<  Rommel,  "  Philipp  von  Hessen," 
1,  p.  417.  Janssen,  "Hist,  of  the  German  People"  (Engl.  Trans.), 
vol.  v.,  p.  527  ff.  Pastor,  "  Die  kirchl.  Reunionsbestrebungen  wahrend 
der  Regierung  Karls  V,"  p.  95. 


the  plan  of  a  council.  Both  were  men  who  believed  in 
mediation  and  Melanchthon  may  really  have  hoped  for 
a  while,  that  the  "  philosophy  of  dissimulation,"  for  which 
he  stood,1  might,  even  in  a  council,  palliate  the  inward 
differences  and  issue  in  something  tolerably  satisfactory. 
Luther  himself  was  never  again  to  refer  to  the  Evangelical 

It  was  the  theologians  headed  by  Martin  Bucer,  who,  at  the 
Diet  of  Schmalkalden  in  1540  at  which  Luther  was  not  present, 
lodged  a  memorandum  on  the  advisability  of  holding  a  council. 
The  petitioners  declared  it  "  very  useful  and  called  for,  both  for 
the  saving  of  unity  in  doctrine  and  for  the  bettering  of  many 
other  things,  that,  every  one  or  two  years,  the  Estates  should 
convene  a  synod  ;  Visitors  chosen  there  were  to  "  silence  any 
errors  in  doctrine"  that  they  might  discover.2  The  Estates, 
however,  did  not  agree  to  this  proposal  ;  it  was  easy  to  foresee 
that  it  would  be  unworkable  and  productive  of  evil.  It  was 
only  necessary  to  call  to  mind  the  fruitlessness  of  the  great 
assemblies  at  Cassel  and  Wittenberg  which  had  brought  about 
the  so-called  Wittenberg  Concord  and  the  disturbances  to  which 
the  Concord  gave  rise.3 

Bucer  keenly  regreted  the  absence  of  any  ecclesiastical  unity 
and  cohesion  amongst  his  friends. 

"  Not  even  a  shadow  of  it  remains,"  so  he  wrote  to  Bullinger. 
"  Every  church  stands  alone  and  every  preacher  for  himself. 
Not  a  few  shun  all  connection  with  their  brethren  and  any 
discussion  of  the  things  of  Christ.  It  is  just  like  a  body  the 
members  of  which  are  cut  off  and  where  one  cannot  help  the  other. 
Yet  the  spirit  of  Christ  is  a  spirit  of  harmony  ;  Christ  wills  that 
His  people  should  be  one,  as  He  and  the  Father  are  one,  and  that 
they  love  one  another  as  He  loved  us.  .  .  .  Unless  we  become 
one  in  the  Lord  every  effort  at  mending  and  reviving  morals  is 
bound  to  be  useless.  For  this  reason,"  he  continues,  "  it  was 
the  wish  of  (Ecolampadius  when  the  faith  was  first  preached  at 
Basle,  to  see  the  congregations  represented  and  furthered  by 
synods.  But  he  was  not  successful  even  amongst  us  [who  stood 
nearest  to  him  in  the  faith].  I  cannot  say  that  to-day  there  is 
any  more  possibility  of  establishing  this  union  of  the  Churches  ; 
but  the  real  cause  of  our  decline  certainly  lies  in  this  inability. 
Possibly,  later  on,  others  may  succeed  where  we  failed.  For, 
truly,  what  we  have  received  of  the  knowledge  of  Christ  and  of 
discipline  will  fade  away  unless  we,  who  are  Christ's,  unite  our- 
selves more  closely  as  members  of  His  Body." 

He  proceeds  to  indicate  plainly  that  one  of  the  main  obstacles 

1  To  Brenz,  April  14,  1537,  "  Corp.  ref.,"  3,  p.  340  :  "  Ulyaaea 
philosophia  .  .  .  multa  dissimulantes.'''' 

2  Letter  of  March  10,  1540,  in  Bindseil,  "  Melanchthonis  epistolae, 
iudicia,  etc.,"  1874,  p.  146. 

3  Cp.  above,  vol.  iii.,  p.  421  ff. 


to  such  a  union  was  Luther's  rude  and  offensive  behaviour 
towards  the  Swiss  theologians  :  Luther  had  undoubtedly  heaped 
abuse  on  "  guiltless  brethren."  But  with  this  sort  of  thing, 
inevitable  in  his  case,  it  would  be  necessary  to  put  up.  "  Will 
it  not  be  better  for  us  to  let  this  pass  than  to  involve  so 
many  Churches  in  even  worse  scandals  ?  Could  I,  without  grave 
damage  to  the  Churches,  do  something  to  stop  all  this  vitupera- 
tion, then  assuredly  I  should  not  fail  to  do  so."1 

Unfortunately  the  peacemaker's  efforts  could  avail  nothing 
against  a  personality  so  imperious  and  ungovernable  as  Luther's. 

Bucer  continued  nevertheless  to  further  the  idea  of  a  Protestant 
council,  though,  so  long  as  Luther  lived,  only  with  bated  breath. 
He  endeavoured  at  least  to  interest  the  Landgrave  of  Hesse  in 
his  plan  for  holding  small  synods  of  theologians. 

It  was  the  want  of  unity  in  the  matter  of  doctrine  and  the 
visible  decline  of  discipline  that  drove  him  again  and  again  to 
think  of  this  remedy.  On  Jan.  8,  1544,  he  wrote  to  Landgrave 
Philip  :  In  so  many  places  there  is  "no  profession  of  faith,  no 
penalties,  no  excommunication  of  those  who  sin  publicly,  nor 
yet  any  Visitation  or  synod.  Only  what  the  lord  or  burgomaster 
wished  was  done,  and,  in  place  of  one  Pope,  many  Popes  have 
arisen  and  things  become  worse  and  worse  from  day  to  day." 
He  reminds  the  Prince  of  the  proposal  made  at  Schmalkalden  ; 
because  nothing  was  done  to  put  this  in  effect,  scandals  were  on 
the  increase.  "  We  constantly  find  that  scarcely  a  third  or  fourth 
part  communicate  with  Christ.  What  sort  of  Christians  will 
there  be  eventually  ?  "2 — In  the  same  way  he  tells  him  later  : 
Because  no  synods  are  held  "  many  things  take  place  daily  which 
ought  really  greatly  to  trouble  all  of  us."3  In  Wiirtemberg  and 
in  some  of  the  towns  of  Swabia  the  authorities  were  dissuaded  by 
the  groundless  fear  lest  the  preachers  should  once  more  gain  too 
much  influence  ;  this  was  why  the  secular  authorities  were  averse 
to  synods  and  Visitations  ;  but  "  on  this  account  daily  arise 
gruesome  divisions  in  matters  of  doctrine  and  unchastity  of  life  ; 
we  find  some  who  are  daily  maddened  with  drink  and  who  give 
such  scandal  in  other  matters  that  the  enemies  of  Christ  have  a 
terrible  excuse  for  blaspheming  and  hindering  our  true  Gospel. 
...  At  the  last  Schmalkalden  meeting  all  the  preachers  were 
anxious  that  synods  and  Visitations  should  be  ordered  and  held 
everywhere.  But  who  has  paid  any  heed  to  this  ?  "  And  yet 
this  is  the  best  means  whereby  "  our  holy  religion  might  be 
preserved  and  guarded  from  the  new  Papists  amongst  us,  i.e. 
those  who  do  not  accept  the  Word  of  God  in  its  purity  and 
entirety,  but  explain  it  away,  pull  it  to  pieces,  distort  and  bend 
it  as  their  own  sensual  passions  and  temptations  move  them."4 

Once  the  main  obstacle  had  been  removed  by  Luther's  death, 

1  Letter  of  Dec.  28,  1543,  in  Lenz,  "  Briefwechsel  des  Landgrafen 
Philipp  von  Hessen,"  2,  p.  227.  "  Nihil  est  quod  minus  multum  [read 
inultum]  relinquerem.'''' 

2  Lenz,  ib.,  p.  241.         3  Letter  of  Feb.  25,  1545,  Lenz,  p.  304. 
4  Letter  of  Dec.  1,  1545,  Lenz,  p.  379. 

V. — M 


Bucer,  who  was  very  confident  of  his  own  abilities,  again  mooted 
the  idea  of  a  great  council.  In  the  same  letter  to  Landgrave 
Philip  of  Hesse  in  which  he  refers  to  the  death  of  Luther,  "  the 
father  and  teacher  of  us  all,"  which  had  occurred  shortly  before, 
he  exhorts  the  Landgrave  more  emphatically  than  ever  to  co- 
operate, so  that  "  first  of  all  a  general  synod  may  be  held  of  our 
co-religionists  of  every  estate,"  to  which  all  the  sovereigns  should 
despatch  eminent  preachers  and  councillors — i.e.  be  formally 
convened  by  the  secular  authorities — and,  that,  subsequently 
"  particular  synods  be  held  in  every  country  of  the  Churches 
situated  there."1  "Short  of  this  the  Churches  will  assuredly 
fare  badly."2 

The  Landgrave  was  not  averse,  yet  the  matter  never  got  any 
further.  The  terrible  quarrels  amongst  the  theologians  in  the 
camp  of  the  new  faith  after  Luther's  decease3  put  any  general 
Protestant  council  out  of  the  question. 

We  can  imagine  what  such  a  council  would  have  become, 
if,  in  addition  to  the  theologians,  the  lay  element  had  been 
represented  to  the  extent  demanded  at  a  certain  Disputa- 
tion held  at  Wittenberg  under  Luther's  presidency  in  1543.4 
From  the  idea  of  the  whole  congregation  taking  its  share  in 
the  government  of  the  Church,  Luther  could  never  entirely 
shake  himself  free.  Nevertheless  it  is  probable,  that,  in 
spite  of  this  Disputation,  he  had  not  really  changed  his  mind 
as  to  the  impossibility  of  an  Evangelical  council. 

If,  with  Luther's,  we  compare  Melanchthon's  attitude 
towards  the  question  of  a  Lutheran  council  we  find  that 
the  latter's  wish  for  such  a  council  and  his  observations 
about  it  afforded  him  plentiful  opportunity  for  voicing  his 
indignation  at  the  religious  disruption  then  rampant.5 

"  Weak  consciences  are  troubled,"  he  said  in  1536, 
"  and  know  not  which  sect  to  follow  ;  in  their  perplexity 
they  begin  to  despair  of  religion  altogether."6 — "  Violent 
sermons,  which  promote  lawlessness  and  break  down  all 
barriers  against  the  passions,  are  listened  to  greedily.    Such 

1  Letter  of  April  5,  1546,  Lenz,  p.  426  f. 

2  Letter  of  May  12,  1545,  Lenz,  p.  433. 

3  See  below,  vol.  vi.,  xl.,  3. 

4  Seckendorf,  "  Comm.  hist,  de  Lutheranismo,"  3,  Lips.,  1694, 
p.  468.  The  disputant,  Johannes  Marbach,  received  from  Luther  this 
testimony  :  "  Amplectitur  puram  evangelii  doctrinam,  quam  ecclesia 
nostra  uno  spiritu  et  una  voce  profiteer."  "  Briefe,"  ed.  De  Wette,  5, 
p.  543.  Cp.  Disputationen,  ed.  Drews,  p.  700  ff.  Some  of  Luther's 
other  statements  concerning  unity  ring  very  differently. 

5  Cp.  vol.  iii.,  pp.  324,  363,  371  f. 

6  "  Corp.  ref.,"  3,  p.  230  ;    "  Incipiunt  de  tota  religione  dubitare" 


preaching,  more  worthy  of  cynics  than  of  Christians,  it 
is  which  thunders  forth  the  false  doctrine  that  good  works 
are  not  called  for.  Posterity  will  marvel  that  there  should 
ever  have  been  an  age  when  such  madness  was  received  with 
applause."1 — "  Had  you  made  the  journey  with  us,"  he 
writes  on  his  return  from  a  visit  to  the  Palatinate  and 
Swabia,  "  and,  like  us,  seen  the  woeful  desolation  of  the 
Churches  in  so  many  places,  you  would  doubtless  long  with 
i tars  and  sighs  that  the  Princes  and  the  learned  should  con- 
fer together  how  best  to  come  to  the  help  of  the  Churches."2 
— Later  again  we  read  in  his  letters  :  "  Behold  how  great 
is  everywhere  the  danger  to  the  Churches  and  how  difficult 
their  government  ;  for  everywhere  those  in  the  ministry 
quarrel  amongst  themselves  and  set  up  strife  and  division." 
"  We  live  like  the  nomads,  no  one  obej^s  any  man  in  any- 
thing whatsoever."3 

Two  provisions  suggested  by  Luther  for  the  future  in 
lieu  of  the  impracticable  synods  were,  the  establishment  of 
national  consistories  and  the  use  of  a  sort  of  excommunica- 

Luther's  Attitude  towards  the  Consistories  introduced 
in  1539 

With  strange  resignation  Luther  sought  to  persuade  him- 
self that,  even  without  the  help  of  any  synods  and  general 
laws,  it  would  still  be  possible  to  re-establish  order  by  means 
of  a  certain  supervision  to  be  exercised  with  the  assistance 
of  the  State,  backed  by  the  penalty  of  exclusion.  Against 
laws  and  regulations  for  the  guidance  of  the  Church's  life, 
he  displayed  an  ever-growing  prejudice,  the  reason  for  this 
being  partly  his  peculiar  ideas  on  the  abrogation  of  all 
governing  authority  of  the  Church,  partly  the  experiences 
with  which  he  had  met. 

"  So  long  as  the  sense  of  unity  is  not  well  rooted  in  the 
heart  and  mind  " — he  wrote  in  1545,  i.e.  after  the  establish- 
ment of  the  consistories — "  outward  unity  is  not  of  much 
use,  nor  will  it  last  long.  .  .  .  The  existing  observances  [in 
matters  of  worship]  must  not  become  laws.     On  the  con- 

1  "  Pezelii  Object,  et  resp.  Melanchtonis,"  P.  V.,  p.  289.  Dollinger, 
"  Die  Reformation,"  1,  p.  373. 

2  Nov.,  1536,  to  Myconius,  "  Corp.  ref.,"  3,  p.  187. 

3  lb.,  pp.  460,  488  (1537  and  1538). 


trary,  just  as  the  schoolmaster  and  father  of  the  family  rule 
without  laws,  and,  in  the  school  and  in  the  home,  correct 
faults,  so  to  speak  only  by  supervision,  so,  in  the  same  way, 
in  the  Church,  everything  should  be  done  by  means  of  super- 
vision, but  not  by  rules  for  the  future.  .  .  .  Everything 
depends  on  the  minister  of  the  Word  being  prudent  and 
faithful.  For  this  reason  we  prefer  to  insist  on  the  erection 
of  schools,  but  above  all  on  that  purity  and  uniformity 
of  doctrine  which  unites  minds  in  the  Lord.  But,  alas, 
there  are  too  few  who  devote  themselves  to  study  ;  many 
are  just  bellies  and  no  more,  intent  on  their  daily  bread. 
.  .  .  Time,  however,  will  mend  much  that  it  is  impossible 
to  settle  beforehand  by  means  of  regulations."1 

"  If  we  make  laws,"  he  continues,  "  they  become  snares 
for  consciences  and  pure  doctrine  is  obscured  and  set  aside, 
particularly  if  those  who  come  after  are  careless  and 
unlearned.  .  .  .  Already  during  our  lifetime  we  have  seen 
sects  and  dissensions  enough  under  our  very  noses,  how  each 
one  follows  his  own  way.  In  short,  contempt  for  the  Word 
on  our  side  and  blasphemy  on  the  other  [Catholic]  side  pro- 
claim loudly  enough  the  advent  of  the  Last  Day.  Hence, 
above  all,  let  us  have  pure  and  abundant  preaching  of  the 
Word  !  The  ministers  of  the  Word  must  first  of  all  become 
one  heart  and  one  soul.  For  if  we  make  laws  our  successors 
will  lay  claim  to  the  same  authority,  and,  fallen  human 
nature  being  what  it  is,  the  result  will  be  a  war  of  the  flesh 
against  the  flesh."2 

In  other  words  Luther  foresaw  a  war  of  all  against  all 
as  likely  sooner  or  later  to  be  the  result  of  any  thorough- 
going attempt  to  regulate  matters  by  means  of  laws  as  the 
Catholics  did  in  their  councils.  He  and  his  friends  were 
persuaded  that  laws  could  only  be  made  effectual  by  virtue 
of  the  power  of  the  State. 

Melanchthon  declared  :  "  Unless  the  Court  supports  our 
arrangements,  what  else  will  they  become  but  Platonic 
laws,  to  use  a  Greek  saying  ?  "3 

The  idea  to  which  Luther  had  clung  so  long  as  there  was 
any  hope,  viz.  to  make  the  congregations  self-governing,  was 
but  a  fanciful  and  impracticable  one  ;  when  again,  little  by 
little,  he  came  to  seek  support  from  the  secular  authority, 

1  To  Prince  George  of  Anhalt,  June  10,  1545,  "  Brief e,"  ed.  De 
Wette,  6,  p.  379.  2  lb.  3  "  Corp.  ref.,"  1,  p.  907. 


he  did  so  merely  under  compulsion  ;  he  felt  it  to  involve 
a  repudiation  of  his  own  principles,  nor  could  he  control  his 
jealousy  when  the  far-reaching  interference  of  the  State 
speedily  became  manifest. 

In  the  Saxon  electorate  the  consistories  had  been  intro- 
duced in  1539,  not  so  much  at  the  instance  of  Luther  as  of 
the  committee  representing  the  Estates.  They  were  to  deal 
with  ecclesiastical  affairs  and  disputes,  with  complaints 
against,  and  grievances  of,  the  clergy,  but  chiefly  with  the 
matrimonial  cases.  The  earlier  "  Visitors  "  had  lacked 
executive  powers.  The  consistory  established  by  the 
Elector  at  Wittenberg  for  the  whole  electorate  was  com- 
posed of  two  preachers  (Jonas  and  Agricola),  and  two 
lawyers.  Luther  raised  many  objections,  particularly  to  the 
consistory's  proposed  use  of  excommunication  ;  he  feared 
that,  unless  they  stuck  to  his  theological  views,  the  con- 
sistories would  lead  to  "  yet  another  scrimmage."  Later, 
however,  he  gave  the  new  organisation  his  support.  It 
was  not  till  1541  that  the  work  of  the  consistories  was  more 
generally  extended.1 

Luther  consoled  himself  and  Spalatin  as  follows  for  the  loss 
of  dignity  which  they  apprehended  :  "  The  consistory  will  deal 
only  with  matrimonial  cases,  with  which  we  no  longer  will  or 
can  have  any  more  to  do  ;  also  with  the  bringing  back  of  the 
peasants  to  some  sort  of  discipline  and  the  payment  of  stipends 
to  the  preachers."2 

For  the  Wittenberg  consistory  to  relieve  him  of  the  matri- 
monial cases  was  in  many  respects  just  what  he  desired.  He 
had  himself  frequently  dealt  with  these  cases  according  to  the 
dictates  of  his  own  ever-changing  views  on  marriage,  so  far  as 
he  was  allowed  by  his  frequent  quarrels  with  the  lawyers  who 
questioned  his  right  to  interfere.  He  now  declared  :  "I  am  glad 
that  the  consistoria  have  been  established,  especially  on  account 
of  the  matrimonial  cases."3  As  early  as  1536,  he  had  written  : 
"  The  peasants  and  rude  populace  who  seek  nothing  but  the 
freedom  of  the  flesh,  and  likewise  the  lawyers,  who,  whenever 
possible,  oppose  our  decisions,  have  wearied  me  so  much  that  I 
have  flung  aside  the  matrimonial  cases  and  written  to  some 
telling  them  that  they  may  do  just  as  they  please  in  the  name  of 
all  the  devils  ;  let  the  dead  bury  their  dead  ;  for  though  I  give 
much  advice,  I  cannot  help  the  people  when  afterwards  they  are 

1  Kostlin-Kawerau,  2,  pp.  441,  574. 

2  To  Spalatin,  Jan.  12,  1541.  "  Brief wechsel,"  13,  p.  246.  "  Spala- 
tin foresaw  what  was  to  come  better  than  did  Luther."  K.  Holl, 
"Luther  und  das  landesherrliche  Kirchenregiment,"  1911,  p.  57. 

3  "  Werke,"  Erl.  ed.,  61,  p.  223,  Table-Talk. 


robbed  and  teased  [by  the  lawyers].  If  the  world  will  have  the 
Pope  then  let  it  have  him  if  otherwise  it  cannot  be." 

"  So  far  I  have  not  found  one  single  lawyer,"  he  continues, 
speaking  of  a  certain  matrimonial  question,  "  who  would  hold 
with  me  against  the  Pope  in  this  or  any  similar  case.  .  .  .  We 
theologians  know  nothing,  and  are  not  supposed  to  count."1 

It  was  in  part  nausea  and  wounded  vanity,  in  part  also  his 
abhorrence  for  the  ecclesiastical  and  sacramental  side  of  marriage 
which  caused  him  repeatedly  to  declare  :  "I  would  we  were 
rid  of  the  matrimonial  business  "  ;2  "  marriage  and  all  its  circum- 
stances is  a  political  affair  "  (both  statements  date  from  1538)  ;3 
"  leave  the  matrimonial  cases  to  the  secular  authorities,  for  they 
concern,  not  the  conscience,  but  the  external  law  of  the  Princes 
and  magistrates  "  (1532).4 

Of  the  ecclesiastical  powers  of  the '  sovereign  he  declared 
however  (1539),  "We  must  make  the  best  of  him  as  bishop, 
since  no  other  bishop  will  help  us."5 

"  But  if  things  come  to  such  a  pass  that  the  Courts  try  to  rule 
as  they  please,"  so  he  wrote  at  a  time  when  this  principle  had 
already  begun  to  bear  its  bitter  fruit,  "  then  the  last  state  will 
be  worse  than  the  first  ...  in  that  case  let  the  Lords  them- 
selves be  our  pastors  and  preachers,  let  them  baptise,  visit  the 
sick,  give  communion  and  perform  all  the  other  offices  of  the 
Church !  Otherwise  let  them  stop  confusing  the  two  callings, 
attend  to  their  own  Courts  and  leave  the  Churches  to  the  clergy. 
...  It  is  Satan  who  in  our  day  is  seeking  to  introduce  into  the 
Church  the  counsels  and  the  authority  of  the  government  officials  ; 
we  shall,  however,  resist  him  and  keep  the  two  callings  separate."6 

Yet  the  "  two  callings,"  the  secular  and  the  ecclesiastical, 
were  to  become  more  and  more  closely  intermingled.  As 
was  inevitable,  the  weak  spiritual  authority  set  up  by 
Luther  was  soon  absorbed  by  a  strong  secular  authority 
well  aware  of  its  own  aims  ;  the  secular  power  treated  the 
former  as  its  sacristan  charged  with  carrying  out  the  services 
of  the  Church,  and  gradually  assumed  exclusive  control, 
even  in  matters  of  doctrine.  A  moral  servitude  such  as  had 
never  been  seen  at  any  period  in  the  history  of  the  German 
Church  was  the  consequence  of  the  State  government  of 
the  Church,  brought  about  by  the  consistories. 

1  To  Count  Albert  of  Mansfeld,  Oct.  5,  1536,  "  Werke,"  Erl.  ed., 
55,  p.  147  ("  Briefwechsel,"  11,  p.  90).    Cp.  above,  vol.  iii.,  38  f.,  263  f. 

2  Lauterbach,  "  Tagebuch,"  p.  121. 

3  lb.,  p.  152. 

4  Schlaginhaufen,  "  Aufzeichn.,"  p.  82. 

5  To  the  Visitors  in  Thuringia,  March  25,  1539,  "  Briefe,"  5,  p.  173 
("  Briefwechsel,"  12,  p.  118). 

6  To  Daniel  Cresser,  Oct.  22,  1543,  "  Briefe,"  ed.  De  Wette,  5, 
p.  596,  concerning  certain  occurrences  at  Dresden. 


In  order  to  understand  Luther's  attitude  towards  the  con- 
sistories and  to  gauge  rightly  his  responsibility,  some  further 
particulars  of  their  rise  and  earliest  form  are  called  for. 

In  1537  the  "  Great  Committee  of  the  Torgau  district  "  de- 
manded, that  the  Elector  should  establish  four  consistories  in 
his  lands.  On  these  would  devolve  the  looking  after  of  "  all 
ecclesiasticce  causce,  the  preaching  office,  the  churches  and  ministers, 
their  vindication  contra  injurias,  all  that  concerned  their  conduct 
and  life,  and  particularly  the  matrimonial  suits."  Some  such 
court  was  essential  in  the  case  of  these  suits,  because,  since  the 
dissolution  of  the  bishops'  courts,  the  utmost  disorders  had 
prevailed  and  nobody  even  knew  by  which  code  the  questions 
pending  were  to  be  judged,  whether  by  the  old  canon  law  with 
which  the  lawyers  were  familiar,  or  according  to  the  doctrine 
and  statutes  of  Luther  which  were  quite  a  different  thing.  The 
disciplinary  system  too  had  become  so  lax  that  some  revision  of 
the  Church  judiciary  appeared  inevitable. 

As  for  the  principles  which  were  to  direct  the  new  organisation  : 
Luther  was  inclined  at  times  to  be  forgetful  of  his  theory,  that 
his  Churches  should  have  no  canon  law  of  their  own ; x  even  at 
this  grave  crisis  he  does  not  seem  to  have  been  distinctly  con- 
scious of  it  ;  at  the  same  time  his  jealousy  made  him  unwilling 
to  see  all  the  authority  for  governing  the  new  Churches  conferred 
directly  by  the  State,  though,  with  his  usual  frankness,  he 
admitted  it  was  impossible  for  things  to  continue  as  they  were. 
The  most  influential  men  of  his  circle  were,  however,  determined 
to  have  so-called  ecclesiastical  courts  introduced  by  the  sovereign, 
which  should  then  govern  in  his  name  ;  hitherto,  they  urged,  it 
was  the  purely  secular  courts  which  had  intervened,  which  was 
a  mistake,  as  had  been  shown  in  practice  by  their  failure.  Thus, 
as  R.  Sohm  put  it,  "  did  Melanchthon's  ideas,  from  about  1537, 
gradually  oust  those  of  Luther  in  the  government  of  the  Lutheran 

It  was  from  this  standpoint  that,  in  his  Memorandum  of  1538 
addressed  to  the  Elector,  Jonas,  the  lawyer  and  theologian, 
supported  the  above-mentioned  proposal  of  the  Torgau  assembly. 

He  points  out  that  "  the  common  people  become  daily  more 
savage  and  uncouth,"  and  that  "  no  Christian  Church  can  hope 
to  stand  where  such  rudeness  and  lawlessness  prevail."  According 
to  him  the  authority  of  the  consistories  was  to  embrace  the  whole 
domain  of  Church  government.  They  were,  however,  to  derive 
their  authority  direct  from  the  sovereign,  "through,  and  by  order 
of,  the  prince  of  the  land."  Hence  "  their  indices  were  to  have  the 
right  to  enforce  their  decisions  "  ;  they  were  to  be  in  a  position 
to  wield  the  Greater  Excommunication  with  its  temporal  conse- 
quences, also  to  inflict  bodily  punishment,  fines  and  "  suitable 
terms  of  imprisonment,"  and  therefore  to  have  "  men-at-arms  " 
and  "  a  prison  "  at  their  disposal.3 

Jonas  and  those  who  agreed  with  him  fancied  that  what  they 

1  See  above  p.  55,  fi\,  and  vol.  ii.,  p.  298. 

2  "  Kirchenrecht,"  1,  1892,  p.  613.  3  R.  Sohm,  ib.,  p.  615. 


were  setting  up  with  the  help  of  the  secular  power  was  a  spiritual 
court  ;  in  reality,  however,  they  were  advocating  a  purely 
secular,  coercive  institution. 

Luther's  views  differed  from  those  of  his  friends  in  so  far  as 
he  wished  to  see  the  new  courts — which  he  frowned  at  and 
distrusted — merely  invested  with  full  powers  for  dealing  with 
matrimonial  suits  ;  even  here,  however,  he  made  a  reservation, 
insisting  on  the  abrogation  of  canon  law.  The  Elector's  edict 
of  1539  appointing  the  consistories,  out  of  consideration  for 
Luther,  was  worded  rather  vaguely.  The  consistories  were, 
"  until  further  notice,"  to  see  to  the  "  ecclesiastical  affairs  " 
which  "have  occurred  so  far  or  shall  yet  occur  and  be  brought 
to  your  cognisance."  x  According  to  this  their  authority  was 
received  only  "  until  further  notice  "  from  the  ruler,  to  whom 
it  fell  to  bring  cases  to  their  "  cognisance,"  and,  who,  naturally 
kept  the  execution  of  the  sentence  in  his  own  hands. 

Luther,  it  is  true,  accepted  the  new  arrangement,  because,  as 
he  said,  it  represented  a  "  Church  court "  which  could  take  over 
the  matrimonial  cases.  But  forthwith  he  found  himself  in  con- 
flict with  the  lawyers  attached  to  the  courts  because  they  in- 
sisted on  taking  their  stand  on  canon  law.  To  his  very  death, 
even  in  his  public  utterances,  he  lashed  the  men  of  the  law  for 
thus  submitting  themselves  to  the  Pope  and  to  the  code  against 
which  his  life's  struggle  had  been  directed.  Yet  the  lawyers 
were  driven  to  make  use  of  the  old  statutes,  since  they  alone 
afforded  a  legal  basis,  and  because  Luther's  propositions  to  the 
contrary — on  secret  marriages,  for  instance — lacked  any  general 
recognition.  The  result  of  Luther's  opposition  to  the  consis- 
tories was,  that,  so  long  as  he  lived,  they  remained  without  any 
definite  instructions,  devoid  of  the  authority  which  had  been 
promised  them,  and  without  the  coercive  powers  they  so  much 
needed  ;  for  the  nonce  they  were  spiritual  courts  without  any 
outward  powers  of  compulsion,  the  latter  being  retained  by  the 
sovereign  to  use  at  his  discretion. 

After  Luther's  death  things  were  changed.  The  consistories 
both  in  the  Saxon  Electorate  and  in  most  other  places  where  they 
had  been  copied  became  exclusively  organs  of  Church  government 
by  the  State,  though  still  composed  of  theologians  and  lawyers. 
In  1579  and  1580  the  end  which  Luther  had  foreseen  arrived. 
"  The  last  things  became,  as  a  matter  of  fact,  worse  than  the 
first,"  as  he  himself  had  predicted,  nay,  as  the  result  of  his  own 
action  ;  Satan  has  introduced  "  into  the  Church  the  counsels 
and  the  authority  of  government  officials  "  (above,  p.  182). 

This  change,  which  in  reality  was  the  realisation  of  the  ideas 
of  Jonas,  Melanchthon  and  Chancellor  Briick,  leads  Rud.  Sohm, 
after  having  portrayed  in  detail  the  circumstances,  to  exclaim  : 
"  The  sovereign  as  head  of  the  Church  !  How  can  such  a  thing 
be  even  imagined  ?  The  Church  of  Christ,  governed  solely  by 
the  word  of  Christ  .  .  .  and  by  command  of  the  ruler  of  the 
land."2     Speaking  of  the  disorder  in  Luther's   Church,   which 

1  lb.,  p.  623.  2  lb.,  p.  618. 


recognised  no  canon  law,  the  Protestant  canonist  says  :  "  Canon 
law  was  needed  to  assist  the  Word  ;  well,  it  came,  but  only  to 
establish  the  lord  of  the  land  as  lord  also  of  the  Church."  "  The 
State  government  of  the  Church  is  in  contradiction  with  the 
Lutheran  profession  of  faith."  "  If,  however,  the  Church  is 
determined  to  be  ruled  by  force,  then  the  ruler  must  be  the 
secular  authority."1 

The  secular  authorities  to  which  Protestantism  looked 
for  support  had  been  well  organised  throughout  the  Empire 
by  the  League  of  Schmalkalden.  Subsequent  to  1535  the 
warlike  alliance  had  been  extended  for  a  further  ten  years. 
In  1539  the  state  of  things  became  so  threatening,  that 
Luther  feared  lest  the  Catholic  princes  should  attack  the 
Protestants.  In  a  sermon  he  referred  to  the  "  fury  of  Satan 
amongst  the  blinded  Papists  who  incite  the  Emperor  and 
other  kings  against  the  Evangel  "  ;  he,  however,  also  added, 
that  "  we,  by  our  boundless  malice  and  ingratitude,  have 
called  down  the  wrath  of  God."  They  ought  to  pray, 
"  that  the  Emperor  might  not  turn  his  arms  against  us  who 
have  the  pure  Word  of  Christ."2  As  a  matter  of  fact,  how- 
ever, the  Emperor  and  the  Empire  were  not  in  a  position 
even  to  protect  themselves  against  the  wanton  behaviour  of 
the  innovators. 

Amongst  the  outward  provisions  made  for  the  future 
benefit  of  the  new  Church,  the  League  of  Schmalkalden 
deserves  the  first  place.  In  the  very  year  before  his  death 
Luther  took  steps  to  ensure  the  prolongation  of  this  armed 

Among  the  efforts  made  at  home  to  improve  matters 
a  place  belongs  to  Luther's  attempts  to  introduce  a  more 
frequent  use  of  excommunication. 

1  lb.,  p.  632.  Sohm's  standpoint  is,  that  a  Church  with  powers  of 
self-government  or  with  a  "  canon  law,"  as  he  calls  it,  is  practically 
unthinkable.  Cp.  Carl  Muller,  "  Die  Anfange  der  Konsistorialver- 
fassung  in  Deutschland  "  (Hist.  Zeitschr.  Bd.  102,  3.  Folge  Bd.  6, 
p.  1  ff.).  He  too  arrives  at  the  conclusion,  contrary  to  many  previously 
held  views,  viz.  that  it  was  only  gradually  in  the  course  of  the  16th 
century  that  the  consistories  changed,  from  organs  of  ecclesiastical 
jurisdiction,  into  organs  of  State  government  of  the  Church.  Cp.  also 
O.  Mejer,  "  Zum  KR.  des  Reformations jahrh.,"  1891,  p.  1  fT. 

2  "  Colloq.,"  ed.  Bindseil,  1,  p.  66. 

3  "  Corp.  ref.,"  5,  p.  720  sq.  Memorandum  as  to  whether  the 
Schmalkalden  League  should  continue,  etc.,  March,  1545,  signed  by 
him  first.    Cp.  "  Briefe,"  ed.  De  Wette,  6,  p.  374. 


Luther  seeks  to  introduce  the  so-called 
Lesser  Excommunication 

The  introduction  of  the  ban  engrossed  Luther's  atten- 
tion more  particularly  after  1539,  but  without  any  special 
results.  In  1541  we  find  the  question  raised  under  rather 
peculiar  circumstances  in  one  of  the  numerous  letters  in 
which  Luther  complains  of  the  secular  authorities.  At 
Nuremberg,  Wenceslaus  Link  had  threatened  certain  persons 
of  standing  with  excommunication,  whereupon  one  of  the 
town-councillors  hurled  at  him  the  opprobrious  epithet  of 
"  priestling."  Full  of  indignation,  Luther  wrote  :  "  It  is 
true  the  civil  authorities  ever  have  been  and  always  will  be 
enemies  of  the  Church.  .  .  .  God  has  rejected  the  world 
and,  of  the  ten  lepers,  scarcely  one  takes  His  side,  the  rest 
go  over  to  the  prince  of  this  world."  "  Excommunication  is 
part  of  the  Word  of  God."  If  they  look  upon  our  preaching 
as  the  Word  of  God  then  it  is  a  disgrace  that  they  should 
refuse  to  hear  of  excommunication,  despise  the  ministers  of 
the  Word  and  hate  the  God  Whom  they  have  confessed  ; 
they  wickedly  blaspheme  in  thus  hurling  the  term 
1  priestling  '  at  His  ministers."1 

Here  we  get  a  glimpse  of  the  difficulty  which  attended 
the  introduction  of  the  ban  :  "  They  refuse  to  hear  of  ex- 
communication . ' ' 

With  the  Greater  Excommunication  which  involved  civil 
disabilities,  and  in  particular  exclusion  to  some  extent  from 
social  intercourse,  Luther  had  no  sympathy  ;  he  was  in- 
terested in  the  reintroduction  merely  of  the  Lesser  Ex- 
communication prohibiting  the  excommunicate  to  take  part 
in  public  worship,  or  at  least  to  receive  the  Supper  or  to 
stand  as  godparent.  In  his  view  the  Greater  Excommunica- 
tion was  a  matter  for  the  sovereign  and  did  not  in  the  least 
concern  the  ministers  of  the  Church ;  this  he  points  out  in 
his  Schmalkalden  Articles.2  He  even  was  inclined  to  look 
upon  any  such  action  of  the  ruler  with  a  jealous  eye  ;  from 
anything  of  the  sort  it  were  better  for  the  sovereign  to  abstain 

1  To  Wenceslaus  Link,  Sep.  8,  1541,  "  Briefe,"  5,  p.  399. 

2  Pars  3,  art.  9  :  "  Maiorem  excommunicationem,  quam  papa  ita 
nominat,  non  nisi  civilem  poenam  esse  ducimus  non  pertinentem  ad 
no8  ministros  ecclesioe.''''  "  Symbol.  Bucher,"  ed.  Miiller-Kolde10, 
p.  323. 


for  fear  of  any  awkward  confusion  of  the  spiritual  with  the 
secular  power.1 

The  "Unterricht  der  Visitatorn,"  printed  in  1528,  had 
already  suggested  to  the  ministers  the  use  of  a  kind  of 
Lesser  Excommunication,  but,  in  the  absence  of  anything 
definite,  the  proposal  remained  practically  a  dead  letter. 
We  learn,  however,  that  Luther  pronounced  his  first  ban  of 
this  sort  against  some  alleged  witches.2  Subsequently  he 
had  strongly  urged  at  the  Court  of  the  Elector  that  the 
authorities  should  at  least  threaten  gross  contemners  of 
religion  with  "  exile  and  punishment  "  as  in  the  case  of 
blasphemers,  and  that  then  the  pastors,  after  instruction 
and  admonition  had  proved  of  no  avail,  should  proceed 
to  exclude  such  men  from  church  membership3  as  "  heathen 
to  be  shunned."  When  mentioning  this  he  fails  to  state 
whether  or  to  what  extent  his  proposal  was  carried  out.4  On 
the  other  hand,  he  often  declares  that  the  actual  state 
of  the  masses  rendered  quite  impossible  any  ordering  of 
ecclesiastical  life  according  to  the  Gospel  ;  he  is  also  fond 
of  speaking  of  the  danger  there  would  be  of  falling  back 
into  the  Popish  regulations  abolished  by  the  freedom  of  the 
Gospel,  were  disciplinary  measures  reintroduced. 

What  moved  Luther  in  1538  to  advocate  the  use  of  the 
ban  was,  first,  the  action  of  the  Elector's  haughty  Captain 
and  Governor,  Hans  Metzsch  at  Wittenberg,  who,  in  addition 
to  Luther's  excommunication,  was  threatened  with  dis- 
missal from  his  office,  or,  as  Luther  expresses  it,  with  the 
Greater  Excommunication  of  the  ruler  (1538),  and,  secondly, 
the  doings  of  a  Wittenberg  burgher  who  (Feb.,  1539) 
dared  to  go  to  the  Supper  in  spite  of  having  committed 
homicide.  In  the  case  of  Metzsch  a  form  of  minor  ex- 
communication was  resorted  to,   Luther  declaring  invalid 

1  To  Tileman  Schnabel  and  the  other  Hessian  clergy,  June  26, 
1533,  "  Brief wechsel,"  9,  p.  317  :  "  Hoc  sceculo  excommunicatio  maior 
ne  potest  quidem  in  nostram  potestatem  redigi,  et  ridiculi  fteremus,  ante 
vires,  hanc  tentantes.  Nam  quod  vos  sperare  videmini,  ut  executio  vel 
per  ipsum  principem  fiat,  valde  incertum  est,  nee  vellem  politicum  magis- 
tratum  in  id  officii  misceri^  etc. 

2  N.  Paulus,  "  Hexenwahn  und  Hexenprozess,"  1911,  p,  32,  with 
reference  to  "  Luthers  Werke,"  Weim.  ed.,  29,  p.  539,  where  the  note 
of  the  Wittenberg  Deacon,  George  Rorer  to  Luther's  sermon  of  Aug.  22 
of  that  year  says  :  "  Hcec  prima  fuit  excommunicatio  ab  ipso  pronun- 

3  Luther  to  Leonhard  Beier,  1533,  "  Brief  wechsel,"  9,  p.  365. 

4  Kostlin-Kawerau,  2,  p.  275. 


the  absolution  and  permission  to  communicate  granted  by 
the  Deacon  Froschel  ;  whether  or  not,  after  this,  he  pro- 
nounced a  further  excommunication,  this  much  is  certain, 
viz.  that,  not  long  after  the  pair  were  reconciled.1 

Many  of  the  well-disposed  on  Luther's  side  were  in  favour 
of  the  ban  as  a  disciplinary  measure  ;  others  were  intensely 
hostile  to  it.  Of  his  latest  intention,  Luther  speaks  at  some 
length  in  a  sermon  of  Feb.  23,  1539.  He  there  explains  how 
the  whole  congregation  must  be  behind  the  clergy  in  en- 
forcing the  ban  ;  they  were  to  be  notified  publicly  of  any 
man  who  proved  obstinate  and  were  to  pray  against  him  ; 
then  was  to  follow  the  formal  expulsion  from  the  congrega- 
tion ;  re-admission  to  public  worship  was  also  to  take  place 

The  plan  of  using  the  ban  as  a  disciplinary  measure  was, 
however,  brought  to  nought  by  the  efforts  of  the  Court  and 
the  lawyers,  who  wished  all  proceedings  of  the  sort  to 
devolve  upon  the  government  as  represented  in  the  con- 
sistories.2 Luther  also  encountered  the  further  difficulty, 
that,  in  many  cases,  the  ban  was  simply  ignored,  even 
greater  scandal  arising  out  of  this  public  display  of  contempt. 
Hence,  owing  to  his  experience,  he  came  to  enjoin  the 
greatest  caution. 

To  his  former  pupil,  Anton  Lauterbach,  preacher  at  Pirna,  he 
sent  the  following  not  over-confident  instructions  :  "  Hesse's 
example  of  the  use  of  excommunication  pleases  me.  If  you  can 
establish  the  same  thing,  well  and  good.  But  the  centaurs  and 
harpies  of  the  Court  will  look  at  it  askance.  May  the  Lord  be 
our  help  !  Everywhere  licence  and  lawlessness  continue  to  spread 
amongst  the  people,  but  it  is  the  fault  of  the  secular  authorities." 3 
t  The  example  of  Hesse  to  which  Luther  referred  was  the 
Hessian  "  Regulations  for  church  discipline,"  enacted  in  1539 
at  the  instance  of  Bucer,  in  which,  amongst  other  things,  pro- 
vision was  made  for  excommunication.  So-called  "  elders," 
appointed  conjointly  by  the  town  authorities  and  the  congrega- 
tion, were  to  watch  over  the  faith  and  morals  of  all,  preachers 
inclusive  ;    to  them,   together  with  the  preacher,  it  fell,   after 

1  Cp.  the  passages  quoted,  ib.,  p.  675,  and  Lauterbach,  "  Tagebuch," 
p.  167. 

2  "  Colloq.,"  ed.  Bindseil,  1,  p.  291  sqq.  Cp.  Kostlin-Kawerau,  2, 
p.  440. 

3  On  April  2,  1543,  "  Briefe,"  5,  p.  550.  Cp.  "  Werke,"  Erl.  ed., 
59,  pp.  162  ff.,  159  f . ;  "We  must  set  up  excommunication  again." 
In  the  latter  passage  he  speaks  of  his  action  against  the  Wittenberg 
Commandant,  Hans  v.  Metzsch. 


seeking  advice  of  the  Superintendent,  to  pronounce  the  ban  over 
the  obdurate  sinner.  In  the  Saxon  Electorate,  however,  so  Luther 
hints,  this  would  hardly  be  feasible  on  account  of  the  attitude  of 
the  authorities  and  the  utter  lawlessness  of  the  people. 

In  1538  the  Elector  himself  had  well  put  the  difficulty  which 
would  face  any  such  disciplinary  measure  :  "If  only  people 
could  be  found  who  would  let  themselves  be  excommunicated  !  " 
He  had,  as  Jonas  related  at  Luther's  table,  listened  devoutly  to 
the  sermon  at  Zerbst  and  then  expressed  himself  strongly  on  the 
universal  decline  in  morals,  the  "  outrageous  wickedness,  gluttony 
and  drunkenness,"  etc.  ;  he  had  also  said  that  excommunication 
was  necessary,  but  had  then  uttered  the  despairing  words  just 
quoted. * 

Yet  in  spite  of  all  Luther  still  continued  at  times  to  hold  up 
the  ban  and  its  consequences  as  a  threat  :  "I  shall  denounce 
him  from  the  pulpit  as  having  been  placed  under  the  ban  " — 
this  of  a  burgher  who  had  absented  himself  from  the  Sacrament 
for  fifteen  years — "  and  will  give  notice  that  he  is  to  be  looked 
upon  as  a  dog  ;  if,  after  this,  anyone  holds  intercourse  or  has 
anything  to  do  with  him,  he  will  do  so  at  his  own  risk  ;  if  he  dies 
he  is  to  be  buried  on  the  rubbish-heap  like  a  dog  ;  we  formally  make 
him  over  to  the  authorities  for  their  justice  and  their  laws  to  do 
their  worst  on  him."2 — "  As  for  our  usurers,  drunkards,  libertines, 
whoremongers,  blasphemers  and  scoffers,"  he  says,  "  they  do 
not  require  to  be  put  under  the  ban,  as  they  have  done  so  them- 
selves ;  they  are  in  it  already  up  to  their  ears.  .  .  .  When  they 
are  about  to  die,  no  pastor  or  curate  may  attend  them,  and  when 
they  are  dead  let  the  hangman  drag  them  out  of  the  town  to  the 
carrion  heap.  .  .  .  Since  they  wish  to  be  heathen,  we  shall  look 
upon  them  as  such."3 

*  Such  self-imposed  excommunication  was  so  frequent  that  the 
other,  viz.  that  to  be  imposed  by  the  preacher,  was  but  rarely 
needed. — "  This  is  the  true  and  chief  reason  why  the  ban  has 
everywhere  fallen  into  disuse,"  Luther  declares,  echoing  the 
Elector,  "  because  real  Christians  are  everywhere  so  few,  so  small 
a  body  and  so  insignificant  in  number."4  He  too  could  exclaim 
with  a  sigh  :  "If  only  there  were  people  who  would  let  themselves 
be  banned." 

But  even  had  such  people  been  forthcoming,  those  who  would 
have  to  pronounce  the  ban  were  too  often  anything  but  perfect. 
What  was  needed  was  prudent,  energetic  and  disinterested 
preachers,  for,  in  order  "  to  make  use  of  the  ban,  we  have  need  of 
good,  courageous,  spiritual-minded  ministers  ;  we  have  too  many 
who  are  immersed  in  worldly  business."  "  I  fear  our  pastors 
will  be  over-bold  and  grasp  at  temporalities  and  at  property."5 

1  Lauterbach,  "  Tagebuch,"  p.  42.  His  words  remind  us  of  Luther's 
own  ;   above,  p.  139. 

2  "  Werke,"  Erl.  ed.,  59,  p.  160. 

3  lb.,  p.  179  f.    Cp.  Mathesius,  "  Tischreden,"  p.  185  (in  1540). 

4  /6.,p.  169  f. 

5  Mathesius,  "  Tischreden,"  p.  278  (in  1542-1543). 


The  want  of  a  Hierarchy.     Ordinations 

Sebastian  Franck  of  Donauworth,  a  man  responsible  for 
some  fanatical  doctrines,  but  a  good  observer  of  events, 
wrote  in  1534  in  his  "  Cosmography  "  :  "  Every  sect  has  its 
own  teacher,  leader  and  priest,  so  that  now  no  one  can  write 
of  the  German  faith,  and  a  whole  volume  would  be  necessary, 
and  indeed  would  not  suffice,  to  enumerate  all  their  sects 
and  beliefs."  "  Men  will  and  must  have  a  Pope,"  he  says, 
"  they  will  steal  one  or  dig  one  out  of  the  earth,  and  if  you 
take  one  from  them  every  day  they  will  soon  find  a  new 

It  was  not,  however,  exactly  a  "  Pope  "  that  the  various 
sects  desired  ;  the  great  and  commanding  name  of  the 
author  of  the  schism  could  endure  none  other  beside  it,  quite 
apart  from  the  impossibility  of  anything  of  the  sort  being 
realised.  On  the  other  hand,  the  appointment  of  bishops  to 
the  new  Churches,  i.e.  the  introduction  of  a  kind  of  hierarchy, 
had  been  discussed  since  about  1540. 

Luther  saw  well  enough  what  a  firm  foundation  the 
Church  of  the  "  Papists  "  possessed  in  its  episcopate.  Would 
not  the  introduction  of  eminent  Lutheran  preachers  into  the 
old  German  episcopal  sees  and  their  investment  with  the 
secular  authority  and  quality  of  bishops,  serve  to  strengthen 
the  cause  of  the  Evangel  where  it  was  weakest  ?  The 
Superintendents  did  not  suffice,  though  these  officers,  first 
introduced  in  the  Saxon  Visitation  of  1527,  held  a  post  of 
supervision  duly  recognised  in  the  Church. 

"  The  Papists  boast  of  their  bishops,"  said  Luther,  "  and  of 
their  spiritual  authority  though  it  is  contrary  to  God's  ordin- 
ances."2 "  They  are  all  set  on  retaining  the  bishops,  and  simply 
want  to  reform  them."3  "  In  Germany  the  bishops  are  wealthy 
and  powerful,  they  have  a  position  and  authority  and  they  rule 
of  their  own  power."4  "  If  only  we  had  one  or  two  bishops  on 
our  side,  or  could  induce  them  to  come  over  to  us  !  "5 

On  Ascension  Day,  May  15,  1539,  we  are  told  that  "  Luther 
dined  with  his  Elector  and  assisted  at  a  council.  It  was  there 
resolved  to  maintain  the  bishops  in  their  authority,  if  only  they 
would  renounce  the  Pope  and  were  pious  persons  devoted  to  the 
Gospel,  like  Speratus.     In  that  case,  said  Luther,  we  shall  grant 

1  "  Kosmographie,"  Bl.  44',  163.  Janssen,  "Hist,  of  the  German 
People  "  (Engl.  Trans.),  v.,  p.  535. 

2  "  Colloq.,"  ed.  Bindseil,  2,  p.  122.  3  lb.,  1,  p.  322. 

4  lb.,  3,  p.  306.  5  "  Werke,"  Erl.  ed.,  60,  p.  367,  Table-Talk. 


them  the  right  and  the  power  to  ordain  ministers.  When  Melanch- 
thon  attempted  to  dissuade  him,  pointing  out  that  it  would  be 
difficult  to  make  sure  of  them  by  examination,  he  replied :  "  They 
are  to  be  tested  by  our  people  and  then  consecrated  by  the  laying 
on  of  hands,  just  as  I  am  now  a  bishop."1  Instead  of  the  words 
"  as  I  am  now  a  bishop  "  a  more  likely  rendering  is,  "  as  we  have 
already  done  as  bishops  here  at  Wittenberg."2  The  resolution 
indicated  would  seem  to  have  been  merely  provisional  and 
non-committal,  possibly  a  mere  project.  Nor  is  it  likely  that 
Melanchthon  can  have  been  very  averse  to  it. 

As  a  matter  of  fact,  Luther  had,  like  a  bishop,  already  ordained 
or  inducted  into  office  such  men  as  had  been  "  called  "  to  the 
ministry,  viz.  by  the  congregations  or  the  authorities  ;  this  he 
did  for  the  first  time  in  1525  in  the  case  of  George  Rorer,  who  had 
been  called  to  the  archdiaconate  of  Wittenberg.  The  ordination 
took  place  with  imposition  of  hands  and  prayer.  Since  1535 
there  existed  a  Wittenberg  oath  of  ordination  to  be  taken  by 
the  preachers  and  pastors  who  should  be  appointed,  by  which 
they  bound  themselves  to  preserve  and  to  teach  the  "  Catholic  " 
faith  as  taught  at  Wittenberg.3 

Luther  did  not  think  that  any  consecration  at  the  hands  of 
the  existing  episcopate  was  necessary  for  a  new  bishop  ;4  such 
necessity  was  incompatible  with  his  conception  of  the  Church, 
the  hierarchy  and  the  common  priesthood ;  as  for  the  Sacrament 
of  Orders  in  the  usual  sense  of  the  word,  it  no  longer  existed. 

A  welcome  opportunity  for  setting  up  a  Protestant  "  bishop  " 
was  presented  to  the  Elector  of  Saxony  and  to  Luther  when  the 
bishopric  of  Naumburg-Zeitz  fell  vacant  (above,  p.  165  f.). 

Johann  Frederick,  the  Elector,  not  satisfied  with  his  rights  as 
protector,  laid  claim  also  to  actual  sovereignty,  and  as  the  inno- 
vations had,  as  stated  above,  already  secured  a  footing  in 
Naumburg,  he  determined  to  introduce  a  Lutheran  preacher  as 
bishop  and  to  seize  upon  the  rights  and  lands  in  spite  of  the 
Chapter  and  larger  part  of  the  nobility  still  being  true  to  the 
Catholic  faith.  He  appealed  to  the  fact  that  the  kings  of  England, 
Denmark  and  Sweden,  and  likewise  the  Duke  of  Prussia,  had  set 
their  bishops  in  "order."5  The  noble  and  scholarly  Julius 
Pflug,  whom  wisely  the  Chapter  at  once  elected  to  the  vacant  see, 
was,  as  related  above,  never  to  be  allowed  to  ascend  the  episcopal 

1  "  Colloq.,"  ed.  Bindseil,  3,  p.  306.  In  the  statement  the  year 
given  is  uncertain.  "  Werke,"  Erl.  ed.,  60,  p.  368  :  "  Anno  34,"  etc.  ; 
elsewhere  1543.  2  Rebenstock,  in  Bindseil,  1.  c. 

3  P.  Drews,  "  Die  Ordination,  Pruning  und  Lehrverpflichtung  der 
Ordinanden  in  Wittenberg"  ("Deutsche  Zeitschr.  fur  KR."),  15,  1905, 
pp.  66  ff.,  274  ff.,  particularly  p.  281  ff. 

4  Kostlin-Kawerau,  2,  p.  22  f.  Mathesius,  "  Tischreden,"  p.  80  : 
"  Doctor  dixit  :  Nos  qui  prazdicamus  Evangelium,  habemus  potestatem 
ordinandi  ;  papa  et  episcopi  neminem  possunt  ordinare  "  (a.  1540). 
P.  226  :  "  Doctor  ad  Cellarium  ;  Vos  cstis  episcopus,  quemadmodum 
ego  sum  papa  "  (a.  1540).  Johannes  Cellarius  was  Superintendent  at 
Dresden.  5  Janssen,  ib.  (Engl.  Trans.),  vi.,  181  ff. 


4.   Consecration  of  Nicholas  Amsdorf  as  "Evangelical 
Bishop"  of  Naumburg  (1542) 

At  first  Luther  was  loath  under  the  circumstances  to 
advise  the  setting  up  in  Naumburg  of  a  bishop  of  the  new 
faith.  To  him  and  to  his  advisers  the  step  appeared  too 
dangerous.  Nevertheless,  on  hearing  of  the  election  of 
Pflug,  he  wrote  as  follows  to  the  Elector  :  These  Naumburg 
canons  "  are  desperate  people  and  the  devil's  very  own. 
But  what  cannot  be  carried  off  openly,  may  be  won  by 
waiting.  Some  day  God  will  let  it  fall  into  your  Electoral 
Highness's  hands,  and  the  devil's  wiseacres  will  be  caught 
in  their  own  wisdom."1 

When,  however,  the  Elector  obstinately  insisted  on 
putting  into  execution  his  plan,  contrary  to  justice  and  to 
the  laws  of  the  Empire  as  it  was,  and  when  his  agents  had 
already  begun  to  govern  the  new  territory,  Luther's  views 
and  those  of  the  Wittenberg  theologians  gradually  changed. 
It  was  difficult,  they  wrote,  to  "  map  out  beforehand  the 
order  "  of  the  German  Church  ;  the  question  whether  they 
would  have  bishops,  or  do  without,  had  not  yet  been 
decided ;  meanwhile  the  Prince  had  better  establish  a 
consistory.  Later  on,  however,  they  advised  the  appoint- 
ment of  a  bishop,  for  the  Church  cannot  be  without  its 
bishop  and  the  Chapter  had  forfeited  its  rights ;  there  was, 
nevertheless,  to  be  a  real  and  genuine  election  at  which  the 
faithful  were  to  be  represented.2 

Luther  and  his  friends  wanted  to  have  as  bishop  Prince 
George  of  Anhalt,  Canon  of  Magdeburg  and  Merseburg,  who 
shared  the  Wittenberg  views. 

To  the  Elector,  however,  who  had  other  plans  of  his  own, 
it  seemed,  that,  owing  to  his  position,  this  Prince  might  not 
prove  an  easy  tool  in  his  sovereign's  hands.  Nicholas 
Amsdorf,  preacher  at  Magdeburg,  who  for  long  years  had 
been  Luther's  associate,  was  accounted  one  of  his  most 
determined  supporters  and,  as  time  went  on,  even  gained 
for  himself  the  reputation  of  being  "  more  Lutheran  than 
Luther,"  appeared  a  more  likely  candidate.  It  was  no 
difficult  matter  to  secure  Luther's  consent.  He  gave 
Amsdorf    the    following    testimonial  :      "  He    was    richly 

1  Letter  of  Jan.  24,  1541,  "  Brief wechsel,"  13,  p.  253  f. 

2  Kostlin-Kawerau,  2,  p.  553  ff. 


endowed  by  God,  learned  and  proficient  in  Holy  Scripture, 
more  so  than  the  whole  crowd  of  Papists  ;  also  a  man  of 
good  life  and  faithful  and  upright  at  heart."  The  fact  that 
he  was  unmarried  was  a  recommendation  for  the  post,  even 
from  the  point  of  view  of  "  Papal  law."1 

It  has  already  been  mentioned  that  Amsdorf  was  later  on 
to  write  the  book  "  That  good  works  are  harmful  to  Salva- 
tion," and  that,  previously,  about  1525,  he  was  active  in 
making  matches  between  the  escaped  nuns  and  the  leaders 
of  the  innovations.  Melanchthon,  writing  to  Johannes 
Ferinarius,  says  :  "  He  was  an  adulterer,  and  lay  with  the 
wife  of  his  deacon  at  Magdeburg  "  ;  of  this  we  hear  from 
the  Luther  researcher  J.  K.  Seidemann,  who  quotes  from 
a  Dresden  MS.2 

The  Ceremony  at  Naumburg 

The  20  Jan.,  1542,  was  appointed  for  the  "  consecration  " 
of  the  bishop.  Two  days  before,  the  Elector  of  Saxony  made 
his  solemn  entry  into  the  little  town  on  the  Saale  escorted  by 
some  three  hundred  horsemen,  the  gentlemen  all  clothed  in 
decorous  black.  His  brother  Johann  Ernest  and  Duke 
Ernest  of  Brunswick  were  in  his  train.  Luther,  Melanchthon 
and  Amsdorf  also  took  part  in  the  procession.  It  was  a 
mere  formality  when  the  Chapter  (or  rather  the  magistrates 
of  the  towns  of  Zeitz  and  Naumburg,  and  the  knights, 
though  only  such  as  were  Protestant)  were  asked  to  cast 
their  votes  in  favour  of  Amsdorf  ;  in  reality  the  will  of 
Johann  Frederick  was  law.  Their  scruples  concerning  the 
oath  they  had  taken  under  the  former  bishop,  of  everlasting 
fidelity  to  the  Catholic  Chapter  were,  at  their  desire,  dealt 
with  by  Luther  himself,  who  argued  that  no  oath  taken  by 
the  sheep  to  the  wolves  could  be  of  any  account,  and  that 
no  duty  "  could  be  binding  which  ran  counter  to  God's 
commandment  to  do  away  with  idolatrous  doctrine."3 

The  "  consecration  "  then  took  place  on  the  day  ap- 
pointed, within  the  venerable  walls  of  the  mediaeval 
Cathedral  of  Naumburg,  ostensibly  according  to  the  usage 
of  the  earliest  ages,  when  the  Church  had  not  as  yet  fallen 

1  "  Werke,"  Erl.  ed.,  262,  p.  126,  in  the  "  Exempel "  (see  below, 
p.  195). 

2  "  Zeitschr.  f.  KG.,"  3,  p.  302,  according  to  MS.  Dresdense  B 
193,  4.  3  Kostlin-Kawerau,  2,  p.  554  f. 

v. — o 


away  from  the  Gospel.  The  Blessing  and  imposition  of 
hands  were  to  signify  that  the  Church  of  Naumburg,  i.e.  the 
whole  flock,  was  wedded  to  its  bishop  ;  he  too,  in  like 
manner,  would  ceremonially  proclaim  his  readiness  to  take 
charge  of  this  same  flock.  The  bishops  of  the  adjoining 
sees,  who,  in  accordance  with  the  custom  of  antiquity 
should  have  assembled  to  perform  the  consecration,  were 
represented  by  three  superintendents  and  one  apostate 
Abbot.  "  At  this  consecration  [to  quote  Luther's  own 
words]  the  following  bishops,  or  as  we  shall  call  them 
parsons,  shall  officiate  :  Dr.  Nicholas  Medler,  parson  and 
super- attendant  of  Naumburg,  Master  George  Spalatin, 
parson  and  super-attendant  at  Aldenburg  [the  former 
preacher  at  the  Court  of  the  Elector],  Master  Wolfgang 
Stein,  parson  and  super-attendant  at  Weissenfels  "*  (also 
Abbot  Thomas  of  St.  George's  near  Naumburg). 

Luther  is  silent  concerning  the  two  requirements  which, 
according  to  the  olden  views,  were  the  most  essential  for  the 
consecration  of  a  bishop,  viz.  the  ritual  consecration,  which 
only  a  consecrated  bishop  could  impart,  and  the  jurisdiction 
or  authority  to  rule,  only  to  be  derived  from  bishops  yet 
more  highly  placed  in  the  hierarchy,  or  from  the  Pope. 
Both  these  Luther  himself  had  to  supply. 

At  the  outset  of  the  ceremony  Nicholas  Medler  announced 
the  deed  which  was  about  to  be  undertaken  "  through  God's 
Grace,"  to  which  the  people  assented  by  saying  "Amen." 
After  this  Luther  preached  a  sermon  on  the  Bible-text 
addressed  to  the  Church's  heads  :  "  Take  heed  to  yourselves 
and  to  the  whole  flock,  wherein  the  Holy  Ghost  hath  placed 
you  bishops  to  rule  the  church  of  God  which  He  hath  pur- 
chased with  His  own  blood  "  (Acts  xx.  28).  After  the 
sermon  Amsdorf  knelt  before  the  altar  surrounded  by  the 
four  assistants  and  the  "  Veni  Creator"  was  sung.  Luther 
admonished  the  future  bishop  concerning  his  episcopal 
duties,  and,  on  the  latter  giving  a  satisfactory  answer,  in 
common  with  the  four  others,  he  laid  his  hands  on  his  head  ; 
after  this  Luther  himself  offered  a  prayer  for  him.  The 
"  Te  Deum  "  was  then  sung  in  German.  Hence  the  bishop's 
consecration  took  place  in  much  the  same  way  as  the 
ordination  of  the  preachers,  viz.  by  imposition  of  hands 
and  prayer. 

i  "  Werke,"  Erl.  ed.,  26 2,  p.  125,  in  the  "  Exempel." 


Luther  himself  had  some  misgivings  concerning  the  step 
and  its  far-reaching  consequences. 

He  wrote  not  long  after  to  Jacob  Probst,  pastor  at  Bremen, 
whom  he  here  addresses  as  bishop  :  "  I  wonder  you  have 
not  heard  the  news,  how,  namely,  on  Jan.  20,  Dr.  Nicholas 
Amsdorf  was  ordained  by  the  heresiarch  Luther  bishop  of 
the  church  of  Naumburg.  It  was  a  daring  act  and  will 
arouse  much  hatred,  animosity  and  indignation  against  us. 
I  am  hard  at  work  hammering  out  a  book  on  the  subject. 
What  the  result  will  be  God  knows."  He  adds  :  "  Jonas  is 
working  successfully  for  the  kingdom  of  Christ  at  Halle 
[where  he  had  been  appointed  pastor]  in  spite  of  the  accursed 
Heinz  and  Meinz  [Duke  Henry  of  Brunswick  and  Arch- 
bishop Albert  of  Mayence]*  My  own  lordship  and  Katey  my 
Moses  greet  you  and  your  spouse.  Pray  for  me  that  I  may 
die  at  the  right  hour,  for  I  am  sick  of  this  life,  or  rather  of 
this  unspeakably  bitter  death."1 

Luther's  booklet  on  the  Consecration  of  Bishops 

The  bitter  work  which  Luther,  at  the  request  of  the 
Elector  and  the  Naumburg  Estates,  "  hammered  out,"  in 
vindication  of  this  act  of  violence,  appeared  in  the  same 
year,  i.e.  1542,  under  the  title  "  Exempel  einen  rechten 
Christlichen  Bischoff  zu  weihen."2 

The  title  itself  shows  that  the  pamphlet  was  no  mere  attempt 
to  justify  himself  and  those  who  had  taken  part  in  the  act  but 
aims  at  something  more  ;  Luther's  apologia  becomes  a  violent 
attack  ;  a  breach  was  to  be  made  in  the  wall  which  so  far  had 
hindered  Protestants  from  appropriating  the  Catholic  bishoprics 
of  Germany.  "  Our  intention,"  says  Luther  quite  plainly,  "  is 
to  establish  an  example  to  show  how  the  bishoprics  may  be  re- 
formed and  governed  in  a  Christian  manner."3 

The  opening  lines  show  that  the  book  was  intended  to  inflame 
and  excite  the  masses.  The  jocular  tone  blatantly  contrasts  with 
the  august  subject  of  the  episcopate  and  supplies  a  good 
"  example  "  of  the  author's  mode  of  controversy.  The  work 
begins  :  "  Martin  Luther,  Doctor.  We  poor  heretics  have  once 
more  committed  a  great  sin  against  the  hellish,  unchristian 
Church  of  our  most  fiendish  Father  the  Pope  by  ordaining  and 
consecrating  a  bishop  for  the  see  of  Naumburg  without  any 
chrism,    without   even    any   butter,    lard,    fat,    grease,    incense, 

1  On  March  26,  1542,  "  Briefe,"  ed.  De  Wette,  5,  p.  451  :  "  Venera- 
bili  in  Domino  viro  Iacobo  Probst  ecclesice  Bremensis  episcopo  vero,"  etc. 

2  "  Werke,"  Erl.  ed.,  262,  p.  93  ff.  3  lb.,  p.  121. 


charcoal  or  any  such-like  holy  things."  Cheerfully  indeed  did  he 
own,  acknowledge  and  confess  this  sin  against  those,  who  "  have 
shed  our  blood,  murdered,  hanged,  drowned,  beheaded,  burnt, 
robbed  and  driven  us  into  exile,  and  inflicted  on  us  every  manner 
of  martyrdom,  and  now,  with  Meinz  and  Heinz,  have  taken  to 
sacking  the  land." 

With  a  couple  of  Bible  passages  he  bowls  over  the  legal  diffi- 
culties arising  out  of  the  expulsion  of  the  bishop-elect  and  the 
oath  of  the  Estates  :  "  Thou  shalt  have  none  other  Gods  before 
me  "  ;  "  Beware  of  false  prophets  who  come  to  you  in  sheep's 
clothing  but  inwardly  are  ravening  wolves,"  etc.  We  must 
sweep  away  the  "  wolf -bishops  whom  the  devil  ordains  and 
thrusts  in."  "  Oath  and  obedience  stand  untouched,"  for  they 
"  could  take  no  [valid]  oath  to  the  wolf."1  The  further  question, 
"  whether  it  was  right  to  accept  consecration  or  ordination  from 
such  damnable  heretics  [i.e.  as  he],  was  disposed  of  by  saying, 
that  the  Evangel  was  no  heresy,  and  that  though  he  understood 
Holy  Scripture  but  little,  yet  at  any  rate  he  understood  it  far 
better — and  also  knew  better  how  to  consecrate  a  Christian 
bishop — than  the  Pope  and  all  his  men,  who  one  and  all  were 
foes  of  Holy  Writ  and  of  the  Word  of  God."2 

This  screed  stands  undoubtedly  far  below  many  of  Luther's 
other  productions.  It  tends  to  be  diffuse  and  to  harp  tediously 
on  the  same  ideas.  Luther  had  already  overwritten  himself,  and 
when  engaged  on  it  was  struggling  with  bad  health,  the  fore- 
runner of  his  fatal  sickness  three  years  later.  His  disgust  with 
life  spoiled  his  work. 

The  "Popes,  cardinals,  bishops,  abbots,  canons  and  parsons" 
he  implores  to  look  rather  to  the  beam  in  their  own*  eye,  to  the 
"  simony,  favouritism,  sharp  practices,  agreements,  conventions 
and  other  horrible  vices  "  which  prevailed  at  their  own  conse- 
crations," than  at  the  mote  in  the  eye  of  the  Lutherans.  "  You 
strainers  at  gnats  and  swallowers  of  camels,  wipe  yourselves 
first — you  know  where  I  mean — before  coming  and  telling  us  to 
wipe  our  noses.  It  is  not  fitting  that  a  sow  should  teach  a  dove 
not  to  eat  any  unclean  grain  of  corn  while  itself  it  loves  nothing 
better  than  to  feed  on  the  excreta  which  the  peasants  leave 
behind  the  hedge.  As  for  the  rest  you  understand  it  well 
enough."3  "  Let  us  stop  our  ears  and  not  listen  to  their  shouting, 
barking,  bellowing,  their  complaints  and  their  abuse,"  with 
which  I  have  "  put  up  for  many  a  year  from  Dr.  Sow  [Dr.  Eck], 
from  Witzel,  Tolpel,  Schmid,  from  Dr.  Dirtyspoon  [Cochlaeus], 
Tellerlecker,  *  Brunzscherben,'  Heinz  and  Meinz  and  whatever 
else  they  may  be.  .  .  .  The  [Last]  Day  is  approaching  for  which 
we  hope  and  which  they  must  needs  fear,  however  obstinately 
they  may  affect  to  despise  it.  Against  their  defiance  we  pit  ours  ; 
at  least  we  may  look  forward  to  The  Day  with  a  happy,  cheerful 
conscience.  On  that  day  we  shall  be  their  judges,  unless  indeed 
there  is  really  no  God  in  heaven  or  on  earth  as  the  Pope  and  his 
followers  believe."4 

1  lb.,  pp.  99,  100,  118,  113.       *  P.  124.      8  P.  125.      4  P.  J15. 


How  little  Luther  really  knew  of  the  cunning  policy  of 
his  sovereign  is  plain  from  his  assuring  his  reader  in  the 
same  booklet,  apparently  in  the  best  of  faith,  that  it  was 
no  motive  of  self-interest  that  had  led  the  Elector  to  inter- 
vene in  the  Naumburg  business  ;  "  the  lands  were  to  remain 
the  property  of  the  see,"  the  Elector  did  not  wish  "  to 
subjugate  it,  to  deprive  it  of  its  liberty,  or  alienate  it  from 
the  Empire,"  etc.1  He  declares  that  whatever  reports 
Julius  Pflug  was  spreading  to  the  contrary  were  a  "  stinking 
lie."  Yet  the  Elector  had  ousted  the  rightful  occupant  of 
the  see,  as  he  had  intended  to  do  all  along,  and  those  who 
ventured  to  oppose  his  commands  he  was  to  punish  by 
sequestration  of  lands  and  even  by  imprisonment. 

The  Protestant  bishop  was  assigned  a  miserable  pittance 
of  six  hundred  Gulden  so  that  Amsdorf,  as  Luther  declared, 
had  been  better  off  at  Magdeburg.2  Practically  nothing 
was  done  by  the  sovereign  for  the  ordering  of  the  Church. 
Luther  bewailed  to  Amsdorf :  "  The  negligence  of  our 
government  gives  me  great  concern.  They  so  often  take 
rash  steps  and,  then,  when  we  are  down  in  the  mire,  snore 
idly  and  leave  us  on  the  lurch.  I  intend,  however,  to  open 
the  ears  of  Dr.  Pontanus  [Chancellor  Bruck]  and  of  the 
Prince  and  give  them  some  plain  speaking."3 

"  How  is  this  ?  "  Luther  wrote  about  this  time  to  Justus 
Jonas,  who,  at  Halle,  had  gone  through  much  the  same 
experience,  "  We  pray  against  the  Turk,  we  are  the  teachers 
of  the  people  and  their  intercessors  with  God  and  yet  those 
who  wish  to  be  accounted  *  Evangelicals  '  rashly  excite  the 
wrath  of  God  by  their  avarice,  their  robbing  and  plundering 
of  the  Church.  The  people  let  us  go  on  teaching,  praying 
and  suffering  while  they  heap  sin  upon  sin  !  "4 

Excerpts  from  Luther's  Letters  to  the  New  "  Bishop  " 

Luther's  correspondence  with  his  friend  Amsdorf  affords 
an  instructive  psychological  insight  into  the  working  of  his 
mind.  During  those  last  years  of  his  life  he  took  refuge 
more  and  more  in  a  certain  fanatical  mysticism.  He  sought 
comfort  in  the  thought  of  his  exalted  calling  and  in  a  kind 

1  P.  126  f.  2  Feb#  6>  1542>  «  Briefe,"  5,  p.  432. 

3  Letter  of  Jan.  13,  1543,  ib.,  p.  532. 

4  Letter  of  July  23,  1542,  ib.,  p.  485. 


of  inspiration  ;  yet  all  he  could  do  availed  but  little  against 
his  inward  gloom. 

Amsdorf,  the  whilom  Catholic  priest,  found  little  pleasure  in 
his  episcopal  status  and  felt  bitterly  both  his  isolation  and  the 
contrast  between  a  pomp  that  was  irksome  to  him  and  the  real 
emptiness  of  his  position  ;  Luther,  accordingly,  in  the  letters 
of  consolation  he  wrote  him,  appealed  to  the  Divine  inspiration, 
which  had  led  to  his  appointment  as  bishop.  The  consecration 
was  surely  undertaken  at  the  express  command  of  God  which 
no  man  may  oppose.  "  In  these  Divine  matters,"  he  writes, 
"it  is  far  safer  to  allow  oneself  to  be  carried  away  than  to  take 
any  active  part  ;  this  is  what  happened  in  your  case,  and  yours 
is  a  noble  and  unusual  example.  We  are  never  in  worse  case 
than  when  we  fancy  we  are  acting  with  discernment  and  under- 
standing, because  then  self-complacency  slinks  in ;  but  the 
blinder  we  are,  the  more  God  acts  through  us.  He  does  more 
than  we  can  think  or  understand."  We  have  here  the  same 
principle  to  which  he  had  been  so  fond  of  appealing  in  the 
early  days  of  his  career  so  as  to  be  able  to  attribute  to  God  the 
unforeseen  and  far-going  consequences  of  his  deeds,  and  to 
reassure  himself  and  urge  himself  on. 

"  We  must  never  seek  to  know,"  he  said  to  Amsdorf,  "  what 
God  wills  to  accomplish  through  us."  "  The  most  foolish  thing  is 
the  wisest."1  "God  rules  the  world  by  means  of  fools  and 
children,  He  will  finish  His  work  [in  you]  by  our  means,  just  as 
in  the  Book  of  Proverbs  (xxx.  2),  where  we  are  called  the  greatest 
fools  on  earth."2 

"  It  is  the  counsel  of  a  fool,"  so  Luther  said  in  his  "  Exempel  " 
of  his  intentions  regarding  the  bishops'  sees,  "  and  I  am  a  fool. 
But  because  it  is  God's  counsel,  therefore  it  is  at  least  the  counsel 
of  a  wise  fool."3 

This  pseudo-mystical  bent  though  usual  enough  in  Luther 
seems  to  have  become  very  much  stronger  in  him  at  that  time. 
To  this  his  sad  experiences  contributed.  More  than  ever  con- 
vinced, on  the  one  hand,  that  everything  in  the  world  was  of  the 
devil  and  that  "  Satan  and  his  whole  kingdom,  full  of  a  terrible 
wrath,  were  harassing  "  the  Elector,  as  he  declares  in  a  letter 
to  Amsdorf,4  he  tends,  on  the  other,  to  fall  back  with  a  fanatical 
enthusiasm  on  the  Evangel  "  revealed  "  to  him.  More  than  one 
statement  which  is  no  mere  empty  form,  shows  that  he  was 
really  anxious  to  find  consolation  in  the  Divine  truths ;  again 
and  again  he  strove  to  rouse  himself  to  a  firm  confidence.  He  is 
also  more  diligent  in  his  peculiar  sort  of  prayer  and  strongly 
urges  his  friends,  notably  Amsdorf  to  whom  he  frankly  imparts 
his  fears  and  hopes,  to  seek  for  help  in  prayer.  His  words  are 
really  those  of  one  who  feels  in  need  of  assistance. 

1  To  Amsdorf  after  Jan.  20,  1542,  ib.,  p.  430. 

2  To  Amsdorf,  Feb.  12,  1542,  ib.,  p.  433. 

3  "  Werke,"  Erl.  ed.,  262,  p.  123. 

4  Jan.  8,  1546,  "  Briefe,"  5,  p.  773. 


Amidst  the  trials  of  increasing  bodily  ailments  and  in  other 
temporal  hardships  he  knows  how  to  encourage  his  life's  partner, 
Catharine  Bora,  whose  anxiety  distressed  him  :  "  You  want  to 
provide  for  your  God,"  he  says  to  her  in  one  of  his  letters,  "  just 
as  though  He  were  not  all-powerful  and  able  to  create  ten  Dr. 
Martins  should  your  old  one  get  drowned  in  the  Saale,  or  smothered 
in  the  coal-hole  or  elsewhere.  Do  not  worry  me  with  your  cares  ; 
I  have  a  better  caretaker  than  even  you  or  all  the  angels.  He 
lies  in  the  crib  and  sucks  at  a  Virgin's  breast,  but  nevertheless  is 
seated  at  the  right  hand  of  God  the  Father  Almighty.  Hence  be 
at  peace,  Amen."1  "  Do  you  pray,"  he  admonishes  her  not  long 
after,  "  and  leave  God  to  provide,  for  it  is  written  :  '  Cast  thy 
care  upon  the  Lord  and  He  shall  sustain  thee,'  Ps.  lv."2 

Such  ready  words  of  encouragement  do  not  however  prevent 
him,  when  dealing  with  other  more  stout-hearted  friends  who 
were  aware  of  the  precarious  state  of  the  cause,  from  giving  full 
voice  to  the  depression,  nay  despair,  which  overwhelmed  him. 
The  following  example  from  his  correspondence  with  the  "  bishop  " 
of  Naumburg  is  characteristic. 

After  an  attempt  to  parry  the  charge  brought  against  him  of 
being  responsible  for  the  public  misfortunes  which  had  arisen 
through  the  religious  revolt,  and  to  reassure  Amsdorf,  and 
incidentally  himself  too,  he  goes  on  gloomily  to  predict  the 
coming  chastisement  :  "  Were  we  the  cause  of  all  the  evils  that 
have  befallen  us  [and  others],  how  much  blood  should  we  have 
already  shed  !  ...  It  is,  however,  Christ's  business  to  see  to 
this,  since  He  Himself  by  His  Word  has  called  forth  so  much  evil 
and  such  great  hatred  on  the  part  of  the  devil.  All  this,  so  they 
fancy,  is  a  scandal  and  a  disgrace  to  our  teaching  !  Nevertheless 
ingratitude  for  God's  proffered  grace  is  so  great,  the  contempt 
for  the  Word  goes  such  lengths,  vice,  avarice,  usury,  luxury, 
hatred,  perfidy,  envy,  pride,  godlessness  and  blasphemy  are 
increasing  by  such  leaps  and  bounds  that  it  is  hard  to  believe 
God  can  much  longer  deal  indulgently  and  patiently  with 
Germany.  Either  the  Turk  will  chastise  us  ["  while  we  brood 
full  of  hate  over  the  wounds  of  our  brethren  "]  or  some  inner  mis- 
fortune [civil  war]  will  break  over  us.  It  is  true  we  feel  the 
chastisement,  we  pay  the  penalty  in  grief  and  tears,  but  yet  we 
remain  sunk  in  terrible  sins  whereby  we  grieve  the  Holy  Ghost 
and  rouse  the  anger  of  God  against  us." 

What  faithful  Catholics  feared  for  him  owing  to  his  obstinacy, 
this,  in  his  sad  blindness,  he  now  predicts  for  the  foes  of  his 
Evangel.  "Who  can  wonder,"  he  cries,  "should  God,  as  Holy 
Scripture  says,  laugh  at  our  destruction  in  spite  of  the  weeping 
and  sighing  of  the  guilty.  .  .  .  The  worst  end  awaits  the  im- 

"  Let  none  of  us  expect  the  least  good  of  the  future.  Our  sins 
cry  aloud  to  heaven  and  on  earth  and  there  is  no  hope  of  any 
good.    Now,  in  a  time  of  peace,  Germany  affords  the  eye  a  terrible 

1  Feb.  7,  1546,  "  Briefe,"  5,  p.  787. 

2  Feb.  10,  1546,  ib.,  p.  790. 


spectacle,  seeing  that  God's  honour  is  outraged  everywhere  by 
so  many  wicked  men  and  that  the  churches  and  schools  are  being 
destroyed.  .  .  .  Meanwhile,  we  at  least  [the  despised  preachers 
of  the  truth]  will  bewail  our  own  sins  and  those  of  Germany  ; 
we  will  pray  and  humble  our  souls,  devote  ourselves  to  our  office, 
teaching,  exhorting  and  consoling.  What  else  can  we  do  ? 
Germany  has  become  blind  and  deaf  and  rises  up  in  insolence  ; 
we  cannot  hope  against  hope." 

"  But  do  you  be  brave  and  give  thanks  to  the  Lord  for  the 
holy  calling  He  has  deigned  to  bestow  upon  us  ;  He  has  willed 
to  sunder  us  from  these  reprobates,  who  are  bent  on  ruining 
others  too,  to  preserve  us  clean  and  blameless  in  His  pure  and 
holy  Word,  and  will  continue  so  to  preserve  us.  Let  us,  however, 
weep  for  the  foes  of  the  cross  of  Christ,  even  though  they  mock 
at  our  tears.  Though  we  be  filled  with  grief  on  account  of  their 
misery  still  our  grief  will  be  assuaged  by  the  holy  joy  which  will 
attend  the  again-rising  of  the  Lord  on  the  day  of  our  salvation, 

He  concludes  this  curious  letter,  written  on  Easter  Sunday, 
with  the  following  benediction  :  "  May  the  Lord  be  with  you  to 
support  and  comfort  you  together  with  us.  Outside  of  Christ,  in 
the  kingdom  of  the  raging  devil,  there  is  nothing  but  sadness  to 
be  seen  or  heard."  Thus,  at  the  close,  he  returns  to  the  opening 
thought  suggested  by  the  very  object  of  the  letter.  Amsdorf  had 
deplored  the  warlike  acts  undertaken  by  Duke  Maurice  of  Saxony 
against  the  Elector.  Luther,  in  turn,  had  informed  him,  that 
"  here,  we  are  quite  certain  that  what  the  Duke  is  doing  is  the 
direct  work  of  Satan."1 

5.   Some  Further  Deeds  of  Violence.     Tate  of  Ecclesiastical 
Works  of  Art 

End  of  the  Bishopric  of  Meissen 

The  Elector  of  Saxony,  after  having  been  so  successful  in 
seizing  the  bishopric  of  Naumburg,  sought  to  obtain  control 
of  that  of  Meissen  also. 

Here,  however,  there  was  another  Protestant  claimant  in 
the  field  in  the  person  of  the  young  Duke  Maurice  of  Saxony, 
successor  of  the  late  Duke  Henry.  As  for  the  chartered 
rights,  temporal  and  spiritual,  of  the  bishop  of  Meissen  they 
were  simply  ignored.  The  Elector,  by  a  breach  of  the  peace, 
sent  a  military  force  on  March  22,  1542,  to  occupy  the 
important  town  of  Wurzen,  where  there  was  a  collegiate 
Chapter  depending  on  Meissen.  The  Chapter  was  "re- 
formed "  by  compulsion,  the  prebendaries  who  were  faithful 

1  April  13,  1542,  ib.,  p.  464. 


to  the  Church  being  threatened  with  deposition  and  corporal 
penalties,  and  many  sacred  objects  being  flung  out  of  their 
church.  When  eventually  war  threatened  to  break  out 
between  the  two  branches  of  the  house  of  Saxony,  Landgrave 
Philip  of  Hesse  stepped  in  as  mediator  in  the  interests  of 
the  new  Evangel.  He  twice  sent  express  messengers  to 
summon  Luther  to  intervene.  But,  even  before  this,  the 
latter,  horrified  at  the  prospect  of  the  "  dreadful  disgrace  " 
which  civil  war  between  two  Evangelical  princes  would 
bring  upon  the  Evangel,  had  addressed  a  long  and  earnest 
letter  of  admonition  to  both  combatants  :  It  was  the  devil 
who  was  seeking  to  kindle  a  great  fire  from  such  a  spark  ; 
both  sides  should  have  recourse  to  law  instead  of  falling 
upon  each  other  over  so  insignificant  a  matter,  like  tipsy 
yokels  fighting  in  a  tap-room  over  a  broken  glass  ;  if  they 
refused  to  do  this,  he  would  take  the  part  of  the  one  who 
first  suffered  acts  of  violence  at  the  hands  of  the  other  and 
would  free  all  the  latter's  followers  from  their  duty  and 
oath  of  obedience  in  the  war.1  The  writing,  which  was 
intended  for  publication  and  to  be  forwarded  "  to  both 
armies,"  was  only  half -printed  when  the  Landgrave  inter- 
vened. The  author  withdrew  it  in  order  to  be  able  to  take 
up  a  different  attitude  in  the  struggle  and  to  proceed  at  once 
to  denounce  Maurice. 

Luther  it  is  true  admitted  to  Briick,  the  electoral  chancellor, 
that  certain  people  at  Wittenberg  did  not  consider  the  Elector's 
claims  at  all  well-founded.2  At  the  Landgrave's  instigation  he 
also  addressed  a  friendly  request  to  the  Elector,  "  not  to  be  too 
hard  and  stiff  "  ;  of  the  temporal  rights  of  the  case  he  was 
ignorant  ;  seeing,  however,  that  there  was  a  dispute  the  question 
could  not  be  clear ;  at  any  rate  Duke  Maurice  was  acting  wrong- 
fully in  "  pressing  his  rights  by  so  bloodthirsty  an  undertaking. 
At  times  there  may  be  a  good  reason  for  pulling  one's  foot  out 
of  the  tracks  of  a  mad  dog  or  for  burning  a  couple  of  tapers  at  the 
devil's  altar."3  But  on  the  whole  he  took  the  part  of  his  Elector 
against  Maurice,  who,  even  before  this,  had  appeared  to  him  lax 
and  wavering  in  his  support  of  the  new  faith.  In  his  history  of 
Maurice  of  Saxony,  G.  Voigt  gives  as  his  opinion  that  :  "In  this 
matter  Luther  neither  showed  himself  unbiassed  nor  did  he  act 
uprightly  and  honourably."4 

1  To  the  Elector  and  the  Duke,  April  7,  1542,  "  Werke,"  Erl.  ed., 
56,  p.  15  ff.     "  Brief e,"  ed.  De  Wette,  6,  p.  304  ff. 

2  Kostlin-Kawerau,  2,  p.  567. 

3  April  9,  1542,  "  Werke,"  Erl.  ed.,  56,  p.  liii.     "  Briefe,"  ib.,  p.  311. 

4  Leipzig,  1874,  p.  28  f. 


To  Amsdorf,  who  had  helped  to  fan  the  flame  of  mutual  hate, 
Luther  speaks  of  Duke  Maurice  as  "  a  proud  and  furious  young 
fellow,  in  whom  we  undoubtedly  see  the  direct  work  of  Satan  "  ; 
it  is  not  he  (Luther)  or  Amsdorf  who  have  to  reproach  themselves 
with  the  conflagration  ;  he  is  to  be  quite  at  rest  on  this  score. 
Rather,  it  is  Christ  Who — by  His  Word — has  given  rise  to  the 
mischief  and  to  all  the  hatred  of  the  demons  against  us.  His 
Word  alone  is  to  blame,  not  we,  that  so  many  confessors  of  our 
faith  have  been  slain,  drowned  and  burnt.  "  In  vain  do  they 
impute  to  us  the  bloody  deeds  which  have  taken  place  owing 
to  Miinzer,  Carlstadt,  Zwingli  and  the  [Anabaptist]  King  of 

"  At  first  Maurice  was  not  regarded  by  Luther,  Melanchthon 
and  most  of  their  contemporaries  as  of  such  importance,  whether 
for  good  or  for  evil,  as  he  soon  after  showed  himself  to  be  ;  they 
fancied  him  far  more  dependent  on  his  nobles  and  councillors 
than  he  really  was."1  Luther  thought  he  detected  the  evil 
influence  of  the  councillors  in  the  twin  businesses  of  Wurzen  and 
Meissen.  In  his  reply  to  the  Landgrave  concerning  the  attempt 
to  bring  the  matter  to  a  peaceful  issue,  without  having  as  yet 
examined  the  cause,  he  speaks  of  Duke  Maurice  as  a  "  stupid 
bloodhound."2  To  his  own  Court  he  wrote,  on  April  12,  as 
though  the  Duke  were  without  question  in  the  wrong  :  "  May 
God  strengthen,  console  and  preserve  my  most  Gracious  Lord 
and  you  all  in  His  Grace  and  in  a  good  conscience,  and  bring 
down  on  the  heads  of  the  hypocritical  bloodhound  of  Meissen 
what  Cain  and  Absalom,  Judas  and  Herodes  deserved.  Amen 
and  again  Amen,  to  the  glory  of  His  name  Whom  Duke  Maurice 
is  outraging  to  the  utmost  by  this  abominable  scandal,  and 
singing  meanwhile  so  blasphemous  a  hymn  of  praise  to  the  devil 
and  all  the  foes  of  God."3 

In  the  meantime,  owing  to  Philip's  exertions,  a  com- 
promise was  effected  between  the  two  parties  ready  for  the 
fray  ;  by  this  it  was  agreed  that  each  should  have  a  free 
hand  in  one  of  the  two  portions  of  the  diocese,  the  Elector 
retaining  Wurzen  ;  as  for  the  defenceless  bishop  of  Meissen, 
who  was  not  even  informed  of  this,  he  had  simply  to  bow 
to  his  fate.  Maurice,  however,  was  so  greatly  angered  that 
he  soon  after  abandoned  the  League  of  Schmalkalden  and 
began  to  make  advances  to  the  Emperor. 

After  the  conclusion  of  peace  "  the  Elector  had  all  the 
images  in  the  chief  church  of  Wurzen  destroyed,  except 
those  which  were  overlaid  with  gold  or  which  represented 
'  serious  events,'  and  the  rest  buried  in  the  vaults."     The 

1  Kostlin-Kawerau,  2,  p.  568. 

2  According  to  Luther's  report  to  Briick,  April  12,  1542,  "  Werke," 
Erl.  ed.,  56,  p.  liv.,  "  Briefe,"  p.  314.  3  lb. 


new  teaching  was  then  introduced  throughout  the  diocese.1 
Maurice  on  his  part  carried  off  from  the  cathedral  of  Meissen, 
which  had  fallen  to  his  share,  all  the  gold  and  silver  vessels 
richly  studded  with  jewels  and  precious  stones  and  all  the 
treasures  of  art.  He  was  taking  them,  he  said,  under  his 
protection  "  because  the  times  were  so  full  of  risk  and 
danger."  After  he  had  taken  them  into  his  "  care  "  all 
trace  of  them  disappeared  for  all  time. 

Destruction  of  Church  Property 

The  fate  of  the  treasures  of  Meissen  Cathedral  resembles 
that  which  befell  the  riches  of  many  churches  at  that  time. 

We  are  still  in  possession  of  the  inventory  made  by 
Blasius  Kneusel  of  Meissen  which  gives  us  a  glimpse  of  the 
wealth  and  magnificence  of  the  treasures  of  mediaeval 
German  art  and  industry  which  perished  in  this  way. 

The  list  contains  the  following  entries  among  others  :  "  One 
gold  cross  valued  by  Duke  George  at  1300  florins  ;  in  it  there  is  a 
diamond  valued  at  16,000  florins,  besides  other  precious  stones 
and  pearls  with  which  the  cross  is  covered."  "  A  second  gold 
cross,  worth  6000  florins.  A  third  is  worth  1000  florins,  besides 
the  precious  stones  and  pearls  of  which  the  cross  is  full.  I  value 
the  gold  table  and  the  credence  table,  without  the  precious 
stones,  at  1000  florins  in  gold.  The  large  bust  of  St.  Benno 
weighs  36£  lbs.  ;  it  is  set  with  valuable  stones  ;  it  was  made 
by  order  of  the  church  and  all  the  congregation  contributed 
towards  it.  The  small  cross  with  the  medallions  of  the  Virgin 
Mary  and  St.  John  weighs  about  50  lbs." 

The  number  of  these  treasures  of  art  which  fell  a  prey  to  the 
plunderer  amounted  to  fifty-one.2 

Two  years  later  Luther  wrote  to  Duke  Ernest  of  Saxony  to 
seek  help  on  behalf  of  two  fallen  monks  then  studying  theology 
at  Wittenberg  :  in  order  to  support  men  who  "  may  eventually 
prove  very  useful  "  "  the  chalices  and  monstrances  might  well 
be  melted  down."3 

The  ruthless  handling  of  the  Black  Monastery  at  Wittenberg, 
which  had  been  bestowed  on  Luther  after  the  dissolution  of  the 
Augustinian  community,  was  to  set  a  bad  example.  The  fittings 
of  the  church  there  were  scattered  and  the  mediaeval  images  and 

1  Burkhardt,  "  Gesch.  der  sachs.  Kirchen-  u.  Schulvisitationen, 
1524-1545,"  1879,  p.  209  f.  Janssen,  "Hist,  of  the  German  People" 
(Engl.  Trans.),  vi.,  p.  192. 

2  G.  A.  Arndt,  "  Archiv  der  sachs.  Gesch.,"  2,  Leipzig,  1784-1786, 
p.  333  ff.  C.  G.  Gersdorf,  "  Urkundenbuch  von  Meissen,"  3,  Leipzig, 
1867,  p.  375  f.    Janssen,  ib.,  p.  193. 

3  April  29,  1544,  "  Werke,"  Erl.  ed.,  56,  p.  91  ;    "  Briefe,"  5,  p.  646. 


vestments  which,  though  perhaps  only  of  small  material  value, 
would  yet  be  carefully  treasured  by  any  museum  to-day,  were 
calmly  devoted  by  Luther  to  destruction. 

"  Now  at  last,"  he  says,  "I  have  sold  the  best  of  the  pictures 
that  still  remained,  but  did  not  get  much  for  them,  fifty  florins 
at  the  most,  and  with  this  I  have  clothed,*  fed  and  provided  for 
the  nuns  and  the  monks — the  thieves  and  rascals."  He  had 
already  remarked  that  the  best  of  the  "  church  ornaments  and 
vessels  "  had  gone  ;  at  the  "  beginning  of  the  Evangel  every- 
thing had  been  laid  waste  "  and  "  even  to  this  very  day  they  do 
not  cease  from  carrying  off  .  .  .  each  man  whatever  he  can 
lay  hands  on."1 

No  one  can  adequately  describe  the  material  damage 
which  the  Catholic  parsonages  and  benefices,  convents  and 
bishoprics  had  to  suffer  on  their  suppression.  A  simple  list 
of  the  spoliations  from  the  hundreds  of  cases  on  record, 
would  give  us  a  shocking  picture  of  the  temporal  conse- 
quences involved  in  the  ecclesiastical  upheaval.  Apart 
from  the  injustice  of  thus  robbing  the  churches  and,  inci- 
dentally, the  numberless  poor  who  looked  to  the  Church  for 
help,  it  was  regrettable  that  there  was  no  other  institution 
ready  to  take  the  place  of  the  olden  Church,  and  assume 
possession  of  the  properties  which  fell  vacant.  The  Catholic 
Church  was  a  firmly  knit  and  well-established  community, 
capable  of  possessing  property.  The  new  Churches  on  the 
contrary  did  not  constitute  an  independent  and  united 
body ;  the  universal  priesthood,  the  invisibility  of  the 
Church  of  Christ  and  its  utter  want  of  independence  were 
ideas  altogether  at  variance  with  the  legal  conception  of 
ownership  upon  which,  in  the  topsyturvydom  of  that  age  of 
transition  it  was  more  than  ever  necessary  to  insist. 

Hence  the  secular  element  had  necessarily  to  assume  the 
guardianship  of  the  property.  But  of  the  secular  authorities, 
which  was  to  take  control  ?  For  these  authorities,  which 
all  were  looking  forward  expectantly  to  their  share  of  the 
church  property  heaped  up  by  their  Catholic  ancestors, 
were  not  one  but  many  :  There  was  the  sovereign  with  his 
Court,  the  civil  administration,  the  towns  with  their 
councils,  not  to  speak  of  other  local  claimants  ;  to  make 
the  confusion  worse  there  were  the  church  patrons,  the 
trustees  of  monasteries,  the  founders  of  institutions,  and 
their  heirs,  and  also  those  endowed  with  certain  privileges 

1  In  Luther's  household  memoranda,  "  Briefe,"  6,  p.  326. 


under  letters  patent.  Moreover,  the  leaders  of  the  religious 
innovations  insisted  that  the  property  acquired  was  to  be 
devoted  to  the  support  of  the  preachers,  the  schools  and 
the  poor.  Hence  to  the  above  already  lengthy  list  of 
claimants  must  be  added  the  preachers,  or  the  consistories 
representing  them,  likewise  the  administrators  of  the  relief 
funds,  the  governors  of  the  schools,  and  the  senates  of  the 
universities  which  had  to  furnish  the  preachers. 

The  war-council  of  the  town  of  Strasburg,  in  1538, 
addressed  a  letter  to  Luther  concerning  their  prospects  or 
intention  of  securing  a  share  of  the  church  property  there. 
On  Nov.  20  of  that  year  he  replied,  peremptorily  telling 
them  to  do  nothing  of  the  sort  ;  under  the  conditions  then 
prevailing  they  must  "  de  facto  stand  still."  Yet  no  less 
plain  was  his  hint  to  them  to  warn  Catholic  owners  "  who 
hold  church  property  but  pay  no  heed  to  the  cure  of  souls," 
to  amend  and  to  accept  the  new  Evangel ;  if  they  "  wished 
to  go,"  i.e.  preferred  banishment,  so  much  the  better, 
otherwise  they  must  once  for  all  by  some  means  be  "at  last 
brought  to  see  that  further  persistence  in  their  wanton- 
ness "  was  out  of  question.1 

To  add  to  the  general  chaos  in  many  places  the  powerful 
nobles,  as  Luther  frequently  laments,  without  a  shadow  of 
a  right,  set  violent  hands  on  the  tempting  possessions,  and, 
by  entering  into  possession,  frustrated  all  other  claims. 

The  leading  theologians  of  Wittenberg  gradually  gave  up 
in  despair  their  attempts  to  interfere,  and  contented  them- 
selves with  exhortations  to  which  nobody  paid  much  heed. 

They  saw  how  the  lion's  share  fell  to  the  strongest,  i.e.  to 
the  Elector,  and  how  everywhere  the  State  took  the  pennies 
of  the  devout  and  the  poor,  using  them  for  purposes  of  its 
own,  which  often  enough  had  nothing  whatever  to  do  with 
the  Church. 

Nowhere  do  we  find  any  evidence  to  show  that  the 
theologians  made  use  of  the  authority  on  which  on  other 
occasions  they  laid  so  much  stress,  or  made  any  serious 
attempt  to  check  arbitrary  action  and  to  point  out  the 
way  to  a  just  distribution,  or  to  lay  down  some  clear  and 
general  rules  in  accordance  with  which  the  graduated  claims 
of  the  different  competitors  might  have  been  settled.  They 
1  "  Werke,"  Erl.  ed.,  55,  p.  213  ("  Brief wechsel,"  12,  p.  34). 


might  at  least  have  associated  themselves  with  the  lawyers 
in  the  Privy  Council  and  formulated  some  rule  whereby 
the  rights  of  the  State,  of  the  towns  and  of  the  church 
patrons  could  have  been  protected  against  the  worst  attacks 
of  the  plunderers.  But  no  check  of  this  sort  was  imposed 
by  the  theologians  on  the  prevailing  avarice  and  greed  of 
gain.  It  is  plain  that  they  despaired  of  the  result,  and, 
possibly,  silence  may  not  have  been  the  worst  policy.  No 
one  can  be  blind  to  the  huge  difficulties  which  attended 
interference,  but  who  was  after  all  to  blame  for  these  and 
so  many  other  difficulties  which  had  arisen  in  public  order, 
and  which  could  be  solved  only  by  the  use  of  force  ? 

When  an  exceptionally  conscientious  town-council  sent  a 
messenger  to  Luther  in  1544  to  ask  for  advice  and  instruc- 
tions how  to  deal  with  the  property  of  two  monasteries 
which  had  been  suppressed,  the  "  honourable,  prudent  and 
beloved  masters  and  friends  "  received  from  him  only  a 
short  and  evasive  answer  :  "  We  theologians  have  nothing 
to  do  with  this  .  .  .  such  things  must  be  decided  by  the 
lawyers  .  .  .  our  theology  teaches  us  to  obey  the  worldly 
law,  to  protect  the  pious  and  to  punish  the  wicked."1 

If,  however,  the  lawyers  were  to  follow  the  jurisprudence 
in  which  they  had  been  trained,  then  they  could  but  insist 
upon  the  property  being  restored  to  its  rightful  owners, 
who  had  never  ceased  to  claim  it  for  the  Church,  and  had 
even  appealed  to  the  imperial  authority.  Luther's  reply 
constituted  a  formal  retreat  from  the  domain  of  moral 
questions,  questions  indeed  which  had  become  burning 
largely  through  the  action  of  his  theologians.  It  was  an 
admission  that  their  theology  was  of  no  avail  to  solve  an 
eminently  practical  question  of  ethics  coming  well  within 
its  purview  which  was  the  safeguarding  of  the  moral  law, 
and  for  which,  indeed,  this  theology  was  itself  responsible. 
In  this,  however,  as  in  so  many  other  instances,  they  sowed 
the  wind,  but  when  the  whirlwind  came  they  ran  for  shelter 
to  their  theological  cell.2 

Still,  the  question  of  church  property  caused  Luther  so 
much  heart-burning  in  his  old  age  that  his  death  was 
hastened  thereby. 

1  July  7,  1544,  "  Werke,"  ib.,  p.  104  f. 

2  Cp.  Luther's  attitude  at  the  time  when  the  question  of  armed 
resistance  to  the  Emperor  was  mooted,  vol.  iii.,  56  ff.,  and  his  views  on 
the  relations  of  Church  and  State. 


The  lamentations  wrung  from  him  in  1538,  his  description 
of  himself  as  "  tormented  "  and  the  "  unhappiest  of  all 
unhappy  mortals,"1  were  due  in  no  small  measure  to  the 
rapacity  he  had  seen  in  connection  with  the  church  lands. 
The  bulwarks  he  strove  to  erect  against  this  disorder  were 
constantly  being  torn  down  afresh  by  the  unevangelical 
disposition  of  the  Evangelicals,  and  yet  he  refused  to  admit, 
even  to  himself,  that  he  had  been  the  first  to  open  the  way  to 
such  arbitrary  action.  As  in  his  own  house  he  had  set  an 
example  of  destruction  of  church  property,  so  in  his  turn 
he  met  with  bitter  experiences  even  in  his  own  dwelling 
and  in  the  case  of  his  own  private  concerns.  His  tenure  of 
the  Black  Monastery  at  Wittenberg  was  uncertain,  and, 
as  already  stated,  hostile  lawyers  at  Court  even  questioned 
his  right  to  dispose  of  his  possessions  by  Will  on  the  ground 
that  his  marriage  was  null  in  law,  whether  canon  or  civil. 
The  Monastery  had  been  given  him  by  the  Prince,  and 
Luther  and  Catherine  Bora  used  it  both  as  their  residence 
and  as  a  boarding-house  for  lodgers.  It  had  not,  however, 
been  given  to  Luther's  family,  and  from  this  the  difficulty 
arose.  He  was  most  careful  to  note  down  in  his  account 
books  the  things  that  were  to  be  Katey's  inalienable  property 
on  his  death,  but,  when  he  was  no  more,  Katey  and  her 
children  had  in  their  turn  to  make  acquaintance  with  the 
poverty  and  vicissitudes  endured  by  so  many  churchmen 
whose  means  of  livelihood  had  been  niched  from  them. 

Luther  and  the  Images 

Can  the  charge  be  brought  against  Luther's  teaching  of 
being  in  part  responsible  for  the  outbreaks  of  iconoclastic 
violence  which  accompanied  the  spread  of  the  Reformation 
in  Germany  ?  Did  his  writings  contribute  to  the  destruction 
of  those  countless,  admirable  and  often  costly  creations  of 
art  and  piety  which  fell  a  prey  to  the  blind  fury  of  the 
zealot,  or  to  greed  of  gain  ? 

Assuredly  he  would,  had  he  seen  them,  have  disapproved 
of  many  of  the  acts  of  vandalism  which  history  tells  us 
were   perpetrated   against   Catholic   churches,   monasteries 

1  To  Amsdorf,  Nov.  25,  1538,  "  Briefe,"  5,  p.  136  ("  Briefwechsel," 
11,  p.  38)  :  "  Vides,  quantis  premor  oneribus.  .  .  .  Miserrimis  miserior, 
ut  qui  ampliu8  nihil  possum  prce  defectu  virium." 


and  institutions.  Generally  speaking  the  ideas  of  Carlstadt 
and  Zwingli,  wherever  they  gained  the  upper  hand,  proved 
far  more  destructive  to  ecclesiastical  works  of  art  than 
Luther's  gentler  admonitions  against  the  veneration  of 
images.  Nevertheless,  his  exhortations,  though  more 
guarded,  made  their  way  among  both  the  mighty  and  the 
masses,  and  were  productive  of  much  harm. 

He  himself  declared  frankly,  about  the  end  of  1524,  that 
"  by  his  writings  he  had  done  more  harm  to  the  images  than 
Carlstadt  with  all  his  storming  and  fanaticism  will  ever  do."1 
In  the  course  of  the  next  year  he  boasted  of  having  "  brought 
contempt  "  on  the  images  even  before  Carlstadt's  time.  He 
had  repudiated  the  latter 's  acts  of  violence  and  his  ill-judged 
appeal  to  the  law  of  Moses  ;2  on  the  other  hand,  he  had 
undermined  the  very  foundations  of  image-worship  by  his 
Evangelical  doctrines  ;  this  was  a  better  kind  of  "  storm- 
ing," for  in  this  way  those  who  once  had  bowed  to  images 
now  "  refused  to  have  any  made."  As  much  as  the  most 
fanatical  of  the  iconoclasts,  he  too  wished  to  see  the  images 
"  torn  out  of  men's  hearts,  despised  and  abolished,"  but 
he  "  destroyed  them  [the  images]  outwardly  and  also 
inwardly,"3  and  so  went  one  better  than  Carlstadt,  who 
attacked  them  only  from  the  outside. 

He  had,  so  he  continues,  speaking  to  the  German  people, 
"  consented  "  that  the  images  should  be  "  done  away  with 
outwardly  so  long  as  this  took  place  without  fanaticism  and 
violence,  and  by  the  hand  of  the  proper  authorities."4  "  We 
drive  them  out  of  men's  hearts  until  the  time  comes  for  them 
to  be  torn  down  by  the  hands  of  those  whose  duty  it  is  to  do 
this."5  Meanwhile,  however,  it  was  "  every  man's  duty  " 
to  "  destroy  them  by  the  Evangel,"  "  especially  the  images 
of  God  and  other  idolatrous  ones."6 

In  his  Church-sermons  he  makes  his  own  the  complaint, 
that,  though  these  images  which  attracted  a  great  "  con- 
course of  people  "  should  be  "  overthrown,"  the  bishops 
were  actually  attaching  indulgences  to  them  and  thus 
increasing  the  disorder.7 

1  To  the  Christians  at  Strasburg,  Dec.  15,  1524,  "  Werke,"  Weim. 
ed.,  15,  p.  395  ;  Erl.  ed.,  53,  p.  275  ("  Brief wechsel,"  5,  p.  83). 

2  See  above,  vol.  ii.,  p.  370. 

3  "  Werke,"  Weim.  ed.,  18,  p.  67  f.  ;  Erl.  ed.,  29,  p.  141  f.  "  Against 
the  heavenly  Prophets."  *  lb.,  68=143.  5  lb.,  p.  73=148. 

6  lb.,  p.  74=149.  7  "  Werke,"  Erl.  ed.,  152,  p.  334. 


In  his  sermons  against  Carlstadt  at  Wittenberg  he  had 
said  things,  and  afterwards  disseminated  them  in  print, 
little  calculated  to  impose  restraint  on  the  zeal  of  the  multi- 
tude :  "It  were  better  we  had  none  of  these  images  on 
account  of  the  tiresome  and  execrable  abuse  and  unbelief."1 

The  iconoclasts  at  Wittenberg  were  anxious,  he  says,  to 
set  about  hewing  down  the  images.  His  reply  was  :  "  Not 
yet  !  For  you  will  not  eradicate  the  images  in  this  way, 
indeed  you  will  only  establish  them  more  firmly  than  ever."2 

Accordingly  it  was  then  his  own  opinion  that  they  should 
be  "  abolished "  and  "  overthrown,"  particularly  such 
images  as  were  held  in  peculiar  veneration  ;  in  1528  he 
again  admitted  that  this  was  his  object,  when  once  more 
proposing  his  own  less  noisy  and  more  cautious  policy  as 
the  more  effectual  ;  in  his  sermons  on  the  Ten  Command- 
ments printed  at  this  time  he  declared  that  the  way  to 
"  hew  down  and  stamp  out  the  images  was  to  tear  and  turn 
men's  hearts  away  from  them."3  Then  the  "  images  would 
tumble  down  of  their  own  accord  and  fall  into  disrepute  ;  for 
they  [the  faithful]  will  say  :  If  it  is  not  a  good  work  to  make 
images,  then  it  is  the  devil  who  makes  them  and  the  pictures. 
In  future  I  shall  keep  my  money  in  my  pocket  or  lay  it  out 
to  better  advantage."4 — "  The  iconoclasts  rush  in  and  tear 
down  the  images  outwardly.  To  this  I  do  not  object  so  much. 
But  then  they  go  on  to  say  that  it  must  be  so,  and  that  it 
is  well  pleasing  to  God  "  ;  this,  however,  is  false ;  it  is  a 
mistake  to  say  that  such  a  Divine  command  exists  to  tear 
them  down.5 

The  grounds  on  which  he  opposed  the  old-time  use  of 
images  were  the  following  :  By  erecting  them  people  sought 
to  gain  merit  in  God's  sight  and  to  perform  good  works  ; 
they  also  trusted  in  images  and  in  the  Saints  instead  of  in 
Christ,  Who  is  our  only  ground  for  confidence  ;  finally — a 
reason  alleged  by  him  but  seldom — people  adored  the 
images  and  thus  became  guilty  of  idolatry.  Here  it  is  plain 
how  much  his  peculiar  theology  on  good  works  and  the 
worship  of  the  saints  contribute  to  his  condemnation  of  the 
ancient  Catholic  practice.     In  his  zeal  against  the  existing 

1  lb.,  Weim.  ed.,  10,  3,  p.  26  ;   Erl.  ed.,  28,  p.  225  f. 

2  lb.,  p.  29  =  228. 

3  lb.,  16,  p.  440  =  36,  p.  49. 

4  lb.,  p.  440f.  =  50. 

5  lb.,  p.  444  =  54.    Sermon  of  1525. 

V.— P 


abuses  he  overlooks  the  fact,  that  to  invoke  before  their 
images  the  Saints'  intercession  with  Christ  was  not  in  the 
least  opposed  to  belief  in  Christ  as  the  one  mediator.  As 
for  the  charge  of  adoring  the  images  to  which  he  resorts 
exceptionally — more  with  the  object  of  making  an  im- 
pression and  shielding  himself — it  amounted  to  an  act  of 
injustice  against  all  his  forefathers  to  accuse  them  of  having 
been  so  grossly  stupid  as  to  confuse  the  images  with  the 
divinity ;  even  he  himself  had  elsewhere  sufficiently  absolved 
them  of  the  charge  of  adoring  saints,  let  alone  images.1 

The  real  cause  of  this  premature  attack  on  images  found 
in  these  sermons  was  the  storm  called  forth  by  Carlstadt, 
which  Luther  hoped  to  divert  and  dominate2  by  the  atti- 
tude he  assumed  ;  otherwise  it  is  very  likely  he  would  have 
refrained  from  assailing  the  religious  feelings  of  the  people 
in  so  sensitive  a  spot  for  many  years  to  come,  or  at  any  rate 
would  not  have  done  so  in  the  manner  he  chose  by  way  of 
reply  to  Carlstadt. 

Nor  assuredly  would  he  have  gone  so  far  had  he  himself 
ever  vividly  realised  the  profoundly  religious  and  morally 
stimulating  character  of  the  veneration  of  images,  and  its 
sympathetic  and  consoling  side  as  exemplified  at  many  of 
the  regular  places  of  pilgrimage  at  that  time.  Owing  to  the 
circumstances  of  his  early  years  he  had  never  enjoyed  the 
opportunity  of  tasting  the  refreshment  and  the  blessings 
to  be  found  in  those  sacred  resorts  visited  by  thousands  of 
the  devout,  where  those  suffering  from  any  ill  of  soul  or 
body  were  wont  to  seek  solace  from  the  cares  and  trials  of 
life.  Indeed  it  was  particularly  against  such  images  as 
were  the  object  of  special  devotion  and  to  which  the 
people  "  nocked  "  with  a  "  false  confidence  "that  his  anger 
was  directed. 

His  animosity  to  image-worship  would  also  appear  to 
have  been  psychologically  bound  up  with  two  tendencies 
of  his  :  first,  with  the  desire  to  attack  the  hated  Church  of 
the  Papists  at  those  very  spots  where  her  influence  with  the 
people  was  most  apparent ;  secondly,  with  his  plan  to  bring 
everything  down  to  a  dead  level,  which  led  him  on  the 
specious   pretext  of  serving  the  religion  of  the  spirit  to 

1  Cp.  Weim.  ed.,  1,  p.  425  ;  "  Opp.  lat.  exeg.,"  12,  p.  51  sq.  (1518, 
against  the  strictures  of  the  Bohemians)  and  Weim.  ed.,  10,  2,  p.  34  ; 
Erl.  ed.,  28,  p.  310. 

2  See  above,  vol.  ii.,  p.  97  f.  ;   vol.  iii.,  p.  385. 


abolish,    or   to    curtail,    the    most    popular   and    cheering 
phenomena  of  outward  worship. 

It  is  a  reprehensible  thing,  he  says,  even  in  his  sermons  against 
Carlstadt,  to  have  an  image  set  up  in  the  church,  because  the 
believer  fancies  "he  is  doing  God  a  service  thereby  and  pleasing 
Him,  and  has  thus  performed  a  good  work  and  gained  merit  in 
God's  sight,  which  is  sheer  idolatry."  In  their  zeal  for  their 
damnable  good  works  the  princes,  bishops  and  big  ones  of  the 
earth  had  "caused  many  costly  images  of  silver  and  gold  to  be 
set  up  in  the  churches  and  cathedrals."  These  were  not  indeed  to 
be  pulled  down  by  force  since  many  at  least  made  a  good  use 
of  them ;  but  it  was  to  be  made  clear  to  the  people  that  if  "  they 
were  not  doing  any  service  to  God,  or  pleasing  Him  thereby," 
then  they  would  soon  "  tumble  down  of  their  own  accord."1 

It  was  a  mistake,  so  he  declared  in  1528  concerning  the  grounds 
of  his  verdict  against  the  images,  to  "  invoke  them  specially,  as 
though  I  sought  to  give  great  honour  or  do  a  great  service  to 
God  with  the  images,  as  has  been  the  case  hitherto."  The  "  trust  " 
placed  in  the  images  has  cost  us  the  loss  of  our  souls  ;  the  Chris- 
tians whom  he  had  instructed  were  now  opposed  to  this  "  trust  " 
and  to  the  opinion  "  that  they  were  thereby  doing  a  special 
service  to  God."2  Amongst  them  memorial  images  might  be 
permitted,  i.e.  such  as  "  simply  represent,  as  in  a  glass,  past 
events  and  things  "  but  "  are  not  made  into  objects  of  devotion, 
trust  or  worship."3 — It  is  dreadful  to  make  them  a  pretext  for 
"  idolatry  "  and  to  place  our  trust  in  anything  but  God.  "  Such 
images  ought  to  be  destroyed,  just  as  we  have  already  pulled 
down  many  images  of  the  Saints  ;  it  were  also  to  be  wished,"  he 
adds  ironically,  "  that  we  had  more  such  images  of  silver,  for  then 
we  should  know  how  to  make  a  right  Christian  use  of  them."4 — 
"  I  will  not  pay  court  to  such  idols ;  the  worship  and  adoration 
must  cease."5  Whoever  "with  his  whole  heart  has  learnt  to 
keep"  the  First  Commandment  would  readily  despise  "all  the 
idols  of  silver  and  gold."6 — Yet  of  the  "adoration  "  of  the  images 
he  had  said  in  a  letter  of  1522  to  Count  Ludwig  von  Stolberg, 
that  the  motive  of  his  opposition  was  not  so  much  fear  of  adora- 
tion, because  adoration  of  the  Saints — so  he  hints — might  well 
occur  without  any  images;  what  urged  him  on  was,  on  the 
contrary,  the  false  confidence  and  the  opinion  of  the  Catholics 
that  "  they  were  thereby  doing  a  good  work  and  a  service  to 

We  have  just  quoted  Luther's  reservation,  viz.  that  he 
was  willing  to  tolerate  the  use  of  images  which  "  simply 

1  "  Werke,"  Weim.  ed.,  10,  3,  p.  31  f.  ;  Erl.  ed.,  28,  p.  229  f. 

2  76.,  16,  p.  440  =  36,  p.  49.    Sermons  on  the  Ten  Commandments. 

3  lb.,  28,  p.  677  f.  =  36,  p.  329  f.    Exposition  of  Deuteronomy. 

4  lb.,  p.  716  =  368.  6  P.  553  =  206.  6  P.  715  =  367. 

7  April  25,  1522,  "  Werke,"  Erl.  ed.,  53,  p.  133  ("  Briefwechsel," 
3,  p.  347). 


represent,  as  in  a  glass,  past  events  and  things."  State- 
ments of  this  sort  occur  frequently  in  his  writings.  They 
go  hand  in  hand  with  a  radical  insistence  on  inward  disdain 
for  image-worship,  and  a  tendency  to  demand  its  entire 
suppression  in  the  churches.  It  was  on  these  lines  that  the 
Elector  of  Saxony  acted  when  ordering  the  destruction  of 
the  images  in  the  principal  church  of  Wurzen  (above,  p.  202) ; 
images  which  represented  "  serious  events "  and  those 
overlaid  with  gold  were  not  to  be  hewn  to  pieces. 

In  the  book  "Against  the  Heavenly  Prophets"  Luther,  in  the 
same  sense,  writes  :  "  Images  used  as  a  memorial  or  for  a  symbol, 
like  the  image  of  the  Emperor"  on  the  coins,  were  not  objection- 
able ;  even  in  conversation  images  were  employed  by  way  of  illus- 
tration ;  "  memorial  pictures  or  those  which  bear  testimony  to 
the  faith,  such  as  crucifixes  and  the  images  of  the  Saints,"  are 
honest  and  praiseworthy,  but  the  images  venerated  at  places  of 
pilgrimage  are  "  utterly  idolatrous  and  mere  shelters  of  the 
devil."1  And  in  the  "  Vom  Abendmal  Christi  Bekentnis  "  (1528) 
he  says  :  "  Images,  bells,  mass  vestments,  church  ornaments, 
altars,  lights  and  such  like  I  leave  optional  ;  whoever  wishes  may 
discard  them,  although  pictures  from  Scripture  and  representa- 
tions of  sacred  subjects  I  consider  very  useful,  though  I  leave 
each  one  free  to  do  as  he  pleases  ;  for  with  the  iconoclasts  I  do 
not  hold."2 

In  one  passage  of  his  Church-postils  he  entirely  approves  the 
use  of  the  crucifix  ;  we  ought  to  contemplate  the  cross  as  the 
Israelites  looked  upon  the  serpent  raised  on  high  by  Moses  ; 
we  should  "see  Christ  in  such  an  image  and  believe  in  Him."3 
"  If  it  be  no  sin,"  he  says  elsewhere,  "  to  have  Christ  in  my  heart, 
why  should  it  be  a  sin  to  have  it  [His  image]  before  my  eyes  ?  "4 

But  Catholics  were  saying  much  the  same  thing  in  defence  of 
the  veneration  of  images,  though  to  this  Luther  paid  no  attention  : 
If  it  be  no  sin  to  have  in  our  hearts  the  saints  who  are  Christ's 
own  friends  or  Mary  who  is  His  Mother,  how  then  should  it 
be  sinful  to  have  their  images  before  our  eyes  and  to  honour 
them  ? 

As  years  went  by  Luther  became  more  and  more  liberal  in 
recommending  the  use  of  historical  and,  in  particular,  biblical 
representations.  In  1545,  when  he  published  his  Passional  with 
his  little  manual  of  prayers,  he  said  in  the  preface,  alluding  to  the 
woodcuts  contained  in  the  book  :  Such  pictures  ought  to  be  in 
the  hands  of  Christians,  more  particularly  of  children  and  of  the 
simple,  who  can  "  better  be  moved  by  pictures  and  figures  "  ; 
there  was  no  harm  "  in  painting  such  stories  in  rooms  and  apart- 
ments,  together  with  the  texts "  ;    he  was  in  favour  of  the 

1  "  Werke,"  Weim.  ed.,  18,  pp  74  f.,  82  f.  ;  Erl.  ed.,  29,  pp.  149  f., 
159.  2  lb.,  26,  p.  509-30,  p.  372. 

3  lb.,  10,  3,  p.  114=  152,  p.  334.  4  lb.,  18,  p.  83  =  29,  p.  159. 

WORKS   OF  ART  213 

"  principal  stories  of  the  whole  Bible  "  being  pictorially  shown, 
though  he  was  opposed  to  all  "  abuse  of  and  false  confidence  in  " 
images. x 

Such  kindlier  expressions  did  not,  however,  do  full  justice 
to  the  veneration  of  images  as  practised  throughout  the 
olden  Church,  nor  did  they  counteract  what  he  had  said  of 
the  idols  of  silver  and  gold,  of  the  uselessness  and  harmful- 
ness  of  bestowing  money  on  sacred  pictures  and  religious 
works  of  art  to  be  exposed  for  the  devotion  of  the  people. 
All  was  drowned  in  his  incitement  to  "  destroy,"  "  break  in 
pieces,"  "  pull  down  "  and  "  fall  upon  "  the  images,  first 
by  means  of  the  Evangel,  and,  then  through  the  action  of 
the  authorities.  It  is  plain  what  fate  was  in  store  particu- 
larly for  those  religious  works  of  art  which  served  as  symbols 
of,  or  to  extol,  those  dogmas  and  institutions  peculiarly 
odious  to  him,  for  instance,  the  sacrifice  of  the  Mass,  around 
which  centred  the  ornaments  of  the  altar,  the  fittings  of  the 
choir,  and,  more  or  less,  all  the  decorations  of  the  church. 
As  for  the  sacred  vessels,  often  of  the  most  costly  character, 
and  all  else  that  pertained  to  the  dispensing  of  the  sacra- 
ments, their  destruction  had  already  been  decreed. 

Further  details  regarding  the  Fate  of  the  Works  of  Art  and 
of  Art  itself 

The  account  already  given  above  of  the  squandering  and 
destruction  of  ecclesiastical  works  of  art,  in  particular  of 
the  valuable  images  of  the  Saints  in  the  towns  of  Meissen 
and  Wurzen,2  may  be  supplemented  by  the  reports  from 
Erfurt  of  the  damage  done  there  at  the  coming  of  the 
religious  innovations  ;  we  must  also  bear  in  mind,  that  the 
suppression  of  Catholic  worship  in  this  town  which  looms  so 
large  in  Luther's  life,  took  place  under  his  particular  in- 
fluence and  with  the  co-operation  of  preachers  receiving 
their  instructions  from  Wittenberg. 

Before  the  lawless  peasants  entered  the  town  on  April  28, 
1525,  the  Council  had  already  "  taken  into  safe  custody  " 
the  treasures  of  the  churches  and  monasteries  ;  chalices 
and  other  vessels  of  precious  metal  were  on  this  occasion 
carried  away  in  "  tubs  and  trogs,"  and  eventually  the  public 
funds  were  enriched  with  the  profit  derived  from  their  sale.3 

1  lb.,  63,  p.  391  f.     2  Cp.  above,  p.  203.     3  See  vol.  ii.,  p.  351  f. 

214         LUTHER  THE  REFORMER 

Amongst  the  objects  taken,  were  :  a  silver  censer  in  the 
shape  of  a  small  boat,  the  silver  caskets  containing  the 
heads  of  Saints  Severus,  Vincentia  and  Innocentia,  the 
silver  reliquary  with  the  bones  of  SS.  Eobanus  and  Adolarius 
in  which  they  were  carried  in  solemn  procession  every  seven 
years.  This  art-treasure  which  belonged  to  St.  Mary's,  was, 
not  long  after,  melted  down  by  the  town-council  when 
pressed  for  money,  "  and  cast  into  bars  which  were  taken  to 
the  mint  at  Weimar."  The  silver  pennies  minted  from 
them  were  later  on  called  coffin  pennies.  Other  valuables 
which  the  Council  had  taken  in  charge  were  put  up  for 
auction  secretly,  without  their  owners  learning  anything 
of  the  matter.  "  The  prebendaries  were  well- justified  in 
urging,"  writes  the  Protestant  historian  who  has  collected 
these  data,  "  as  against  these  high-handed  proceedings 
that  the  Council  should  first  have  laid  hands  on  the  valuables 
belonging  to  the  burghers,  or  at  the  very  least  have  sum- 
moned the  rightful  owners  to  be  present  at  the  sale  of  their 
property,  in  order  that  they  might  make  a  note  of  the  prices 
obtained  and  thus  be  able  to  claim  compensation  later. 
The  Council  suffered  a  moral  set-back,  while  at  the  same 
time  reaping  no  appreciable  material  advantage."1 

Not  only  the  Council  but  the  peasants  too,  led  by  the 
Lutheran  preachers,  were  greatly  to  blame  for  the  destruc- 
tion of  art  treasures  wrought  at  Erfurt  in  that  same  year. 
When,  in  order  to  put  an  end  to  the  rule  over  the  town  of 
the  Elector,  Albert  of  Brandenburg,  they  stormed  the  so- 
called  Mainzer  Hof  at  Erfurt,  "  all  the  jewels,  gold,  silver 
and  valuable  household  stuff  were  carried  off."  Shortly 
after  "  the  peasants,  thanks  to  their  sharpness,  managed  to 
unearth  a  pastoral  staff  in  silver,  worth  300  florins  [in  the 
then  currency],  which  had  been  concealed  in  the  privy 
attached  to  the  room  of  the  master  cook  to  save  it  from  the 
greed  of  the  robbers."2  At  the  Mainzer  Hof  they  removed 
all  monumental  tablets,  pictures  and  statues  as  well  as  the 
elaborate  coats  of  arms  bearing  witness  to  the  Archbishop's 
sovereignty.  A  stone  effigy  of  St.  Martin  which  stood  in 
front  of  the  Rathaus  and  the  ancient  symbols  of  the 
sovereignty  of  Mayence  were  pulled  down  and  smashed  to 
bits.     In  place  of  these  they  scrawled  on  the  new  stone 

1  Th.  Eitner,  "Erfurt  u.  die  Bauernaufstande  im  16.  Jahrh.,"  Halle, 
1903,  pp.  59,  95.  2  lb.,  p.  72. 

WORKS   OF  ART  215 

edifice  which  had  been  erected  there  another  coat  of  arms  in 
chalk  and  charcoal,  having  a  plough,  coulter  and  hoe  in  the 
shield  and  in  the  field  a  horse-shoe.  "  During  all  this 
Adolarius  Huttner  [with  Eberlin  of  Giinzburg,  the  apostate 
Franciscan]  and  other  Lutheran  preachers  were  going  to 
and  fro  amongst  them."  The  whole  row  of  priests'  houses 
standing  alongside  the  torrent  was  searched  and  the  valu- 
ables plundered.1 

"  The  people  of  Erfurt  did  almost  as  much  damage  as  the 

As  a  matter  of  fact  the  citizens  frequently  outdid  the 
agricultural  population  in  this  work  of  destruction.  The 
chronicles  of  the  times  relate,  that  they  broke  down  the 
walls  of  the  vaults  of  the  two  collegiate  churches  in  hopes  of 
finding  hidden  treasure  behind  them,  and,  then,  in  their 
disappointment,  sacrilegiously  tore  open  the  tabernacles, 
threw  the  holy  oils  to  the  dogs  and  treated  the  things  in  the 
churphes  in  such  a  manner  as  is  "  heartrending  beyond 
description."  The  mob  destroyed  not  merely  the  books  and 
parchments  in  which  their  obligations  were  recorded,  but  a 
number  of  others  of  importance  for  literature  and  learning 
were  also  wantonly  spoiled. 

From  another  contemporary  source  we  have  the  following 
on  the  destruction  of  the  old  writings  :  "  And  besides  all 
this  on  St.  Walpurgis  Day  in  the  Lauwengasse  the  peasants 
and  those  who  were  with  them  tore  up  more  than  two  waggon- 
loads  of  books,  and  threw  them  out  of  the  houses  into  the 
street.  These  the  burgher  folk  carried  home  in  large  baskets. 
While  gathering  up  the  torn  books  as  best  they  could, 
putting  them  into  baskets  and  binding  them  with  ropes  as 
one  does  straw,  a  whirlwind  sprang  up  and  lifted  the  torn 
books,  letters  and  papers  high  into  the  air  and  over  all  the 
houses,  so  that  many  of  them  were  afterwards  found  stick- 
ing to  the  poles  in  the  vineyards."3 

In  very  many  instances,  particularly  during  the  Peasant 
War,  the  destruction  and  scattering  of  ecclesiastical  works 
of  art  went  much  beyond  Luther's  injunctions.  We  shall 
hear  him  protest,  that  many  were  good  Evangelicals  only  so 
long  as  there  were  still  chalices,  monstrances  and  monkish 

1  lb.,  pp.  74,  84.  2  lb.,  p.  75. 

3  lb.,  pp.  78,  76. 


vessels  to  be  had.1  It  was  naturally  a  very  difficult  task 
to  check  the  greed  of  gain  and  wanton  love  of  destruction 
once  this  had  broken  loose,  particularly  after  the  civil 
authorities  had  tasted  the  sweets  to  be  derived  from  the 
change  of  religion,  and  after  the  peasants  in  the  intoxication 
of  their  newly  found  freedom  of  the  Gospel,  and  in  their 
lust  for  plunder,  had  begun  to  lay  violent  hands  on  property. 
It  was  in  accordance  with  Luther's  express  injunctions 
that  the  "  proper  authorities  "  proceeded  to  destroy  such 
images  as  were  not  a  record  of  history.  They  went  further, 
however,  nor  was  the  zeal  confined  solely  to  the  authorities. 

In  Prussia,  the  land  of  the  Teutonic  Order,  the  crosses  and  the 
images  of  the  Saints  had  been  doomed  to  destruction  by  the 
revolution  of  1525  ;  the  silver  treasures  of  art  in  the  churches 
were  hammered  into  plate  for  use  at  the  new  Lutheran  Duke's 
dining-table.  The  Estates  of  his  country,  when  he  had  asked 
them  to  vote  supplies,  retorted  that  he  might  as  well  help  himself 
to  the  treasures  of  the  churches.  The  result  was,  so  the  chronicler 
of  that  day  relates,  "that  all  the  chalices  and  other  ornaments" 
were  removed  from  the  houses  of  God,  barely  one  chalice  being 
left  in  each  church  ;  some  of  the  country  churches  were  even 
driven  to  use  pewter  chalices.  "  When  they  had  taken  all  the 
silver  they  fell  upon  the  bells  "  ;  they  left  but  one  in  each  village, 
the  rest  being  carried  off  to  Konigsberg  and  sold  to  the  smelters. 2 
At  Marienwerder  only  did  the  prebendaries,  appealing  to  the 
King  of  Poland,  make  a  stand  for  the  retention  of  their  church 
plate  and  other  property,  until  they  themselves  were  sent  in 
chains  to  Preuschmark. 3 

In  1524,  during  the  fair,  the  images  were  dragged  out  of  the 
churches  at  Riesenburg  in  Pomerania,  shamelessly  dishonoured 
and  finally  burnt.  The  bishop-elect,  a  dignitary  whom  the  Pope 
had  refused  to  confirm  and  who  was  notoriously  a  "  zealous 
instrument  of  the  Evangel,"  excused  the  proceeding.  In  other 
towns  similar  outrages  were  perpetrated  by  the  iconoclasts. 

On  the  introduction  of  Lutheranism  at  Stralsund  almost  all 
the  churches  and  monasteries  were  stormed,  the  crucifixes  and 
images  being  broken  up  in  the  presence  of  members  of  the  town- 
council  (1525).4 

In  1525  the  Lutherans  at  Dantzig  took  possession  of  the 
wealthy  church  of  St.  Mary's,  which  was  renowned  for  the 
number  of  its  foundations  and  had   128  clergy  attached  to  it. 

1  See  below,  p.  230. 

2  Chr.  Falk,  "  Elbingisch-Preuss.  Chronik,"  ed.  M.  Toppen  ("  Publik. 
des  Vereins  f.  die  Gesch.  der  Provinzen  Ost-  und  West-Preussen," 
Leipzig,  1879),  p.  157  f.  Janssen,  "  Hist,  of  the  German  People  " 
(Engl.  Trans.),  v.,  p.  112  ff. 

3  v.  Baczko,  "  Gesch.  Preussens,"  4,  p.  173  ff.    Janssen,  ib. 

4  Janssen,  ib. 

WORKS   OF  ART  217 

A  list  of  the  articles  confiscated  or  plundered  comprises  :  ten 
chalices  of  gold  with  precious  stones  of  great  value,  and  as  many 
bejewelled  gold  patens  and  ampullae  ;  a  ciborium  of  gold  with 
corals  and  gems,  two  gold  crosses  with  gems,  an  image  of  the 
Virgin  Mary  with  four  angels  in  gold,  a  silver  statue  of  the  same, 
silver  statues  of  the  Apostles,  four  and  twenty  silver  ciboriums, 
six  and  forty  silver  chalices,  two  dozen  of  them  of  silver-gilt, 
twelve  silver  and  silver-gilt  ampullae,  eleven  ungilt  silver 
ampullae,  twenty-three  silver  vessels,  twelve  of  them  being  gilt, 
twelve  silver-gilt  chalices  with  lids,  twelve  silver-gilt  crosses  with 
corals  and  precious  stones,  two  dozen  small  silver  crosses,  eight 
large  and  ten  small  silver  censers,  etc.,  twelve  chasubles  in  cloth 
of  gold  with  pearls  and  gems,  twelve  of  red  silk  with  a  gold  fringe, 
besides  this  eighty-two  silk  chasubles,  twelve  cloth-of-gold 
antependiums  with  pearls  and  gems,  six  costly  copes,  twelve 
other  silk  copes,  six  and  forty  albs  of  gold  and  silver  embroidered 
flower-pattern,  sixty-five  other  fine  albs,  eighty-eight  costly 
altar  covers,  forty-nine  gold-embroidered  altar  cloths,  ninety- 
nine  less  elaborate  altar  cloths.1 

When  Bugenhagen  had  secured  the  triumph  of  Lutheranism 
in  the  town  of  Brunswick  the  altars  were  thrown  down,  the 
pictures  and  statues  removed,  the  chalices  and  other  church 
vessels  melted  down  and  the  costly  mass  vestments  sold  to  the 
highest  bidder  at  the  Rathaus  (1528).  Bugenhagen,  Luther's 
closest  spiritual  colleague,  laboured  zealously  to  sweep  the 
churches  clean  of  "  every  vestige  of  Popish  superstition  and 
idolatry."  Only  the  collegiate  churches  of  St.  Blasius  and  St. 
Cyriacus,  and  the  monastery  of  St.  Egidius,  of  which  Duke  Henry 
of  Brunswick  was  patron,  remained  intact. 2 

The  wildest  outbreak  of  iconoclasm  took  place  in  1542  in  the 
Duchy  of  Brunswick,  when  the  Elector  Johann  Frederick  of 
Saxony  and  Landgrave  Philip  of  Hesse  occupied  the  country  and 
proceeded  to  extirpate  the  Catholic  worship  still  prevalent  there. 
Within  a  short  while  over  four  hundred  churches  had  been 
plundered,  altars,  tabernacles,  pictures  and  sculptures  being 
destroyed  in  countless  numbers.3 

During  this  so-called  "  Evangelical  War "  five  thousand 
burghers  and  mercenaries  of  the  town  of  Brunswick,  shouting 
their  war-cry  :  "  The  Word  of  God  remaineth  for  ever,"  set  out, 
on  July  21,  1542,  against  the  monastery  of  Riddaghausen ;  there 
they  broke  down  the  altars,  images  and  organs,  carried  off  the 
monstrances,  mass  vestments  and  other  treasures  of  the  church, 
plundering  generally  and  perpetrating  the  worst  abominations. 
The  mob  also  broke  in  pieces  the  images  and  pictures  in  the 
monastery  of  Steterburg  and  then  demolished  the  building.  Nor 
did  the  abbey  of  Gandersheim  fare  much  better.  The  preben- 
daries there  complained  to  the  Emperor,  that  all  the  crucifixes 
and  images  of  the  Saints  had  been  destroyed  together  with  other 

1  L.  Redner's  "  Skizzen  aus  der  KG.  Danzigs,"  Danzig,  1875 
("  Marienkirchen  "). 

2  Janssen,  ib.,  p.  120.  3  Janssen,  ib.,  vol.  xi.,  p.  34  ff. 


objects  set  up  for  the  adornment  of  the  church  and  churchyard 
outside. x 

The  Lutheran  preacher,  K.  Reinholdt,  looking  back  two 
decades  later  on  the  devastation  wrought  in  Germany,  reminded 
his  hearers  that  Luther  himself  had  repeatedly  preached  that, 
"  it  would  be  better  that  all  churches  and  abbeys  in  the  world 
were  torn  down  and  burnt  to  ashes,  that  it  would  be  less  sinful, 
even  if  done  from  criminal  motives,  than  that  a  single  soul  should 
be  led  astray  into  Popish  error  and  be  ruined"  ;  "if  they  would 
not  accept  his  teaching,  then,  so  Luther  the  man  of  God  had 
exclaimed,  he  would  wish  not  merely  that  his  doctrine  might  be 
the  cause  of  the  destruction  of  Popish  churches  and  convents, 
but  that  they  were  already  lying  in  a  heap  of  ashes."2 

At  Hamburg  iconoclastic  disturbances  began  in  Dec,  1528.  The 
Cistercian  convent,  Harvestehude,  where  the  clergy  still  dare  to 
say  Mass,  was  rased  to  the  ground. 3 

At  Zerbst,  in  1524,  images  and  church  fittings  were  destroyed, 
part  of  these  being  used  to  "  keep  up  the  fire  for  the  brewing  of 
the  beer  "  ;4  stone  sculptures  were  mutilated  and  then  used  in 
the  construction  of  the  Zerbst  Town-Hall,  whence  they  were 
brought  to  light  at  a  much  later  date,  when  a  portion  of  the 
building  was  demolished.  The  statues,  headless,  indeed,  but  still 
gleaming  with  gold  and  colours,  gave,  as  a  narrator  of  the  find 
said,  "  an  insight  into  the  horrors  of  the  iconoclasm  which  had  run 
riot  in  the  neighbouring  churches."6 

The  chronicler  Oldecop  describes  how,  at  Hildesheim  in  1548, 
the  heads  of  the  stone  statues  of  St.  Peter  and  St.  Paul  which 
stood  at  the  door  of  the  church  of  the  Holy  Rood  were  hewn  off 
and  replaced  by  the  heads  of  two  corpses  from  the  mortuary  ; 
they  were  then  stoned  by  the  boys.  The  magistrates,  indeed, 
fined  the  chief  offender,  but  only  because  forced  to  do  so.6 
Hildesheim  had  been  protestantised  in  great  part  as  early  as 
1524.  At  that  time  the  mob  plundered  the  churches  and 
monasteries,  rifled  the  coffins  of  the  dead  in  search  of  treasure, 
destroyed  the  crucifixes  and  the  images  of  the  Saints,  tore  down 
the  side  altars  in  most  of  the  churches  and  carried  off  chalices, 
monstrances  and  ornaments,  and  even  the  silver  casket  contain- 
ing the  bones  of  St.  Bern  ward.7  From  St.  Martin's,  a  church 
belonging  to  the  Franciscans,  the  magistrates,  according  to  the 
inventory,  removed  the  following :  sixteen  gilt  chalices  and 
patens,  eleven  silver  chalices,  one  large  monstrance  with  bells, 

1  lb.,  vol.  vi.,  p.  205. 

2  Whitsuntide  Sermon,  in  Janssen,  ib.,  vol.  xi.,  p.  38.  Cp.  "  Luthers 
Werke,"  Erl.  ed.,  72,  pp.  121,  131,  222  f.,  330.  Cp.  Janssen,  ib.,  p.  37, 
the  passages  from  the  sermons  of  the  superintendent  George  Nigrinus. 

3  Janssen,  ib.,  v.,  p.  121. 

4  Beckmann,  "  Historie  des  Furstentums  Anhalt,"  6,  p.  43. 

6  "  Repertorium  f.  Kunstwissenschaft,"  20,  p.  46.  Janssen,  ib., 
vol.  xi.,  p.  36. 

6  Oldecop,  in  1548.    Janssen,  ib.,  vol.  xi.,  p.  36. 

7  "  Hist.-pol.  Bl.,"  9,  p.  316  ff.  :  10,  p.  15  ff.  Janssen,  "  Hist,  of 
the  German  People  "  (Engl.  Trans.),  vi.,  p.  209. 

WORKS   OF  ART  219 

one  large  gilt  cross,  three  silver  crosses  with  stands,  a  silver 
statue  of  Our  Lady  four  feet  in  height,  a  silver  censer,  two  silver 
ampullae,  a  silver-gilt  St.  Lawrence  gridiron,  a  big  Pacifical  from 
the  best  cope,  all  the  bangles  from  the  chasubles,  seventeen 
silver  clasps  from  the  copes,  "  the  jewellery  belonging  to  our 
dear  ladies  the  Virgin  Catherine  and  Mother  Anne,"  and,  besides, 
ten  altars  and  also  a  monument  erected  to  Brother  Conrad,  who 
was  revered  as  a  Saint,  were  destroyed ;  the  copper  and  lead  from 
the  tower  was  carried  off  together  with  a  small  bell. x 

When  the  Schmalkalden  Leaguers  began  to  take  up  arms  for 
the  Evangel  the  Evangelical  captain  Schartlin  von  Burtenbach, 
commander-in-chief  of  the  South-German  towns,  suddenly  fell 
upon  the  town  of  Fiissen  on  July  9,  1546,  abolished  the  Catholic 
worship  and  threw  the  "  idols  "  out  of  the  churches.  Before  his 
departure  he  plundered  all  the  churches  and  clergy,  and  "  set 
the  peasants  on  to  massacre  the  idols  in  their  churches  "  ;  the 
proceeds  "  from  the  chalices  and  silver  plate  he  devoted  to  the 
common  expenses  of  the  Estates." 

This  was  only  the  beginning  of  Schartlin's  plundering.  After 
joining  hands  with  the  Wiirtemberg  troops  his  raiding  expeditions 
were  carried  on  on  a  still  larger  scale. 2 

During  the  Schmalkalden  campaign  the  soldiers  of  Saxony 
and  Hesse  on  their  retreat  from  the  Oberland,  acting  at  the 
behest  of  the  Elector  of  Saxony  and  the  Landgrave  of  Hesse, 
carried  off  as  booty  all  the  valuable  plate  belonging  to  the 
churches  and  monasteries.  Chalices,  monstrances,  Mass  vest- 
ments and  costly  images,  none  of  them  were  spared.  In  Saxony 
similar  outrages  were  perpetrated. 

In  Jan.,  1547,  the  Elector  caused  all  the  chalices,  monstrances, 
episcopal  crosses  and  other  valuables  that  still  remained  at  Halle 
and  either  were  the  property  of  the  Archbishop  of  Magdeburg, 
Johann  Albert,  or  had  been  presented  to  the  place  by  him,  to  be 
brought  to  Eisleben  and  either  sold  or  coined.  The  Elector's 
men-at-arms  and  the  mob  destroyed  the  pictures  and  statues  in 
the  Dominican  and  Franciscan  friaries.  When,  shortly  after  this, 
Merseburg,  as  well  as  Magdeburg  and  Halberstadt,  was  occupied 
by  the  Saxon  troops,  the  leaders  robbed  the  Cathedral  church  (of 
Merseburg)  of  its  oldest  and  most  valuable  art  treasures,  amongst 
which  was  the  golden  table  which  the  Emperor  Henry  II  had 
presented  to  it.3 

Magdeburg  was  the  rallying-place  of  Lutheran  zealots,  such  as 
Flacius  Illyricus,  and  was  even  called  the  "  chancery  of  God  and 
His  Christ,"  by  Aquila  in  a  letter  to  Duke  Albert  of  Prussia  ;4 
before  it  was  besieged  in  the  Emperor's  name  by  Maurice  of 
Saxony  and  was  yet  under  the  rule  of  a  Council  banned  by  the 

1  "  Hist.-pol.  Bl.,"  10,  p.  17. 

2  Ladurner,  "  Der  Einfall  der  Schmalkaldener  im  Tirol,  1546," 
("  Archiv  f.  Gesch.  u.  Altertumskunde  Tirols,"  1),  p.  415  ff.  Janssen, 
ib.,  vi.,  315  ft.  3  Janssen,  ib.,  vi.,  p.  349. 

4  J.  Voigt,  "  Brief wechsel  der  Gelehrten  des  Zeitalters  der  Refor- 
mation mit  Herzog  Albrecht  von  Preussen,"  1841,  p.  30. 

220         LUTHER  THE  REFORMER 

Empire,  it  passed  through  a  period  of  wild  outrage  directed 
against  the  Catholic  churches  and  convents,  both  within  and 
outside  the  walls.  The  appeal  addressed  by  the  cathedral 
Chapter  on  Aug.  15,  1550,  to  the  Estates  of  the  Empire  assembled 
at  Augsburg  gives  the  details.1  The  town,  "  for  the  protection 
of  the  true  Christian  religion  and  holy  Evangel,"  laid  violent 
hands  on  the  rich  property  of  the  churches  and  cloisters,  and 
committed  execrable  atrocities  against  defenceless  clerics. 
Bodies  were  exhumed  in  the  churches  and  cemeteries.  Never, 
so  the  account  declares,  would  the  Turks  have  acted  with  such 
barbarity.  Even  the  tomb  of  the  Emperor  Otto,  the  founder  of 
the  archdiocese,  was,  so  the  Canons  relate,  "  inhumanly  and 
wantonly  broken  open  and  desecrated  with  great  uproar." 

Several  thousand  men  set  out  from  the  town  for  the  monastery 
of  Hamersleben,  situated  in  the  diocese  of  Halberstadt.  They 
forced  their  way  into  the  church  one  Sunday  during  Divine 
service,  wounded  or  slaughtered  the  officiating  priests,  trampled 
under  foot  the  Sacred  Host  and  ransacked  church  and  monastery. 
Among  the  images  and  works  of  art  destroyed  was  some  magnifi- 
cent stained  glass  depicting  the  Way  of  the  Cross.  No  less  than 
150  waggons  bore  away  the  plunder  to  Magdeburg,  accompanied 
by  the  mob,  who  in  mockery  had  decked  themselves  out  in  the 
Mass  vestments  and  habits  of  the  monks.2 

Hans,  Margrave  of  Brandenburg-Kustrin,  was  one  who  had 
war  against  the  Catholic  clergy  much  at  heart.  In  a  letter  to  the 
Elector  Maurice  he  spoke  of  the  clergy  as  "  priests  of  Baal  and 
children  of  the  devil."  It  was  a  proof  of  his  Evangelical  zeal, 
that,  on  July  15,  1551,  he  ordered  the  church  of  St.  Mary  at 
Gorlitz  to  be  pillaged  and  destroyed  by  Johann  von  Minckwitz. 
All  the  altars,  images  and  carvings  were  hacked  to  pieces,  all 
the  costly  treasures  stolen.  Minckwitz  had  great  difficulty  in 
rescuing  the  treasures  from  the  hands  of  a  drunken  mob  of 
peasants  who  were  helping  in  the  work,  and  conveying  them 
safely  to  the  Margrave  at  Kiistrin.3 

In  the  spring  of  1552,  when  Maurice  of  Saxony  levied  a  heavy 
fine  on  the  town  of  Nuremberg  for  having  revolted  against  the 
Emperor,  the  magistrates  sought  to  indemnify  themselves  by 
taking  nearly  900  lbs.  weight  of  gold  and  silver  treasures  out  of 
the  churches  of  Our  Lady,  St.  Lawrence  and  St.  Sebaldus  and 
ordering  them  to  be  melted  down  or  sold. 4 

In  June  and  July,  1552,  Margrave  Albert  of  Brandenburg- 
Kulmbach  laid  waste  the  country  around  Mayence  with  fire  and 
sword  to  such  an  extent,  that  the  bishop  of  Wurzburg,  in  order  to 
raise  the  unheard-of  sums  demanded,  had,  as  we  find  it  stated 
in  a  letter  of  Zasius  to  King  Ferdinand  dated  July  10,  to  lump 
together  "  all  the  gold  and  silver  plate  in  the  churches,  the 
jewels,    reliquaries,    monstrances,    statues    and    vessels    of    the 

1  Janssen,  ib.,  vi.,  p.  434. 

2  Aug.  19,  1548,  C.  W.  Hase,  "  Mittelalterliche  Baudenkmale 
Niedersachsens,"  Hannover,  1858,  Hft.,  3,  p.  100. 

3  Janssen,  ib.,  vi.,  p.  438  f.  4  lb.,  vi.,  p.  454. 

WORKS   OF  ART  221 

sanctuary  "  and  have  them  minted  into  thalers.  M  At  Neu- 
miinster  one  reliquary  was  melted  down  which  alone  was  worth 
1000  florins."1  The  citizens  of  Wurzburg  were  obliged  to  give  up 
all  their  household  plate  and  the  cathedral  itself  the  silver  statue 
of  St.  Kilian,  patron  of  the  diocese. * 

When  the  commanders  and  the  troops  of  the  Elector  Maurice 
withdrew  from  the  Tyrol  after  the  frustration  of  their  under- 
taking owing  to  the  flight  of  the  Emperor  to  Carinthia,  all  the 
sacred  objects  of  value  in  the  Cistercian  monastery  of  Stams  in 
the  valley  of  the  upper  Inn  were  either  broken  to  pieces  or  carried 
off.  The  soldiers  broke  open  the  vault,  where  the  earthly  remains 
of  the  ruling  Princes  had  rested  for  centuries,  dragged  the  corpses 
out  of  their  coffins  and  stripped  them  of  their  valuables.3  The 
inventory  of  the  treasures  of  art  made  of  precious  metal  and 
other  substances  which  perished  at  Stams  must  be  classed  with 
numerous  other  sad  records  of  a  similar  nature  dating  from 
that  time.4 

After  the  truce  of  Passau,  Margrave  Albert  of  Brandenburg, 
with  the  help  of  France,  turned  his  attention  to  Frankfurt, 
Mayence  and  Treves.  At  Mayence,  after  making  a  vain  demand 
for  100,000  gold  florins  from  the  clergy,  he  gave  orders  to  ransack 
the  churches,  and  set  on  fire  the  churches  of  St.  Alban,  St.  Victor 
and  Holy  Cross,  the  Charterhouse  and  the  houses  of  the  Canons. 
He  boasted  of  this  as  a  "  right  princely  firebrand  we  threw  into 
the  damned  nest  of  parsons."  In  Treves  all  the  collegiate 
churches  and  monasteries  were  "sacked  down  to  the  very  last 
farthing,"  as  an  account  relates;  the  monastery  of  St.  Maximin, 
the  priory  of  St.  Paul,  the  castle  of  Saarburg  on  the  Saar,  Pfalzel 
and  Echternach  were  given  to  the  flames.5  "  Such  proceedings 
were  incumbent  on  an  honourable  Prince  who  had  the  glory  of 
God  at  heart  and  was  zealous  for  the  spread  of  the  Divine  Gospel, 
which  God  the  Lord  in  our  age  has  allowed  to  shine  forth  with 
such  marvellous  light."  So  Albert  boasted  to  an  envoy  of  the 
Archbishop  of  Mayence  on  June  27,  1552,  when  laying  waste 
Wurzburg. 6 

"The  archbishoprics  of  Treves  and  Mayence,  the  bishoprics  of 
Spires,  Worms  and  Eichstatt  are  laid  waste  with  pillage,"  wrote 
Melchior  von  Ossa  the  Saxon  lawyer,  "  the  stately  edifices  at 
Mayence,  Treves  and  other  places,  where  lay  the  bones  of  so 
many  pious  martyrs  of  old,  are  reduced  to  ashes."7  The  com- 
plaints of  a  Protestant  preacher  who  had  worked  for  a  consider- 
able time  at  Schwabisch-Hall  ring  much  the  same  :  "  Our 
parents    were    willing    to    contribute    towards    the    building    of 

1  See  A.  v.  Druffel,  "  Briefe  und  Akten  zur  Gesch.  des  16.  Jahrh.," 
2,  1873  ff„  p.  668.  2  Janssen,  ib.,  vi.,  p.  458. 

3  F.  A.  Sinnacher,  "  Beitr.  z.  Gesch.  d.  Kirche  Saben  und  Brixen," 
7,  1830,  p.  441.  D.  Schonherr,  "  Der  Einfall  des  Kurfiirsten  Moritz  in 
Tyrol,"  1868,  p.  101  ff.    Janssen,  ib.,  vi.,  p.  478. 

4  See  Schonherr,  ib.,  p.  137  ff. 

5  Janssen,  ib.,  vi.,  p.  496.  6  lb.,  vi.,  p.  459. 

7  Melchior  von  Ossa  in  his  diary,  Jan.  1,  1553.  F.  A.  Langenn, 
"  D.  Melchior  von  Ossa,"  1858,  p.  161.    Janssen,  ib.,  p.  505. 


churches  and  to  the  adornment  of  the  temples  of  God.  .  .  .  But 
now  the  churches  have  been  pilfered  so  badly  that  they  barely 
retain  a  roof  over  them.  Superb  Mass  vestments  of  silk  and 
velvet  with  pearls  and  corals  were  provided  for  the  churches  by 
our  forefathers  ;  these  have  now  been  removed  and  serve  the 
woman-folk  as  hoods  and  bodices  ;  indeed  so  poor  have  some  of 
the  churches  become  under  the  rule  of  the  Evangel,  that  it  is 
impossible  to  provide  the  ministers  of  the  Church  even  with 
a  beggarly  surplice."1 

The  wanton  waste  and  destruction  which  took  place  in 
the  domain  of  art  under  Lutheran  rule  during  the  first  fifty 
years  of  the  religious  innovations,  great  as  they  were,  do  not 
by  any  means  approach  in  magnitude  the  losses  caused 
elsewhere  by  Zwinglianism  and  Calvinism. 

Yet  two  things  in  Lutheranism  had  a  disastrous  effect 
in  checking  the  revival  of  religious  art,  even  when  the  first 
struggles  for  mastery  were  over :  first,  there  was  the 
animosity  against  the  Sacrifice  of  the  Mass  and  the  per- 
petual eucharistic  presence  of  Christ  in  the  tabernacle  ;  this 
led  people  to  view  with  distrust  the  old  alliance  existing 
between  the  Eucharistic  worship  and  the  liberal  arts  for 
exalting  the  dignity  and  beauty  of  the  churches.  After 
the  Mass  had  been  abolished  and  the  Sacrament  had  ceased 
to  be  reserved  within  the  sacred  walls,  respect  for  and 
interest  in  the  house  of  God,  which  had  led  to  so  much  being 
lavished  on  it,  began  to  wane.  The  other  obstacle  lay  in 
Luther's  negative  attitude  towards  the  ancient  doctrine  and 
practice  of  good  works.  The  belief  in  the  meritoriousness 
of  works  had  in  the  past  been  a  stimulus  to  pecuniary 
sacrifices  and  offerings  for  the  making  of  pious  works  of  art. 
Now,  however,  artists  began  to  complain,  that,  owing  to 
the  decline  of  zeal  for  church  matters  their  orders  were 
beginning  to  fall  off,  and  that  the  makers  of  works  of  art 
were  being  condemned  to  starvation. 

In  a  protocol  of  the  Council  of  Strasburg,  dated  Feb.  3, 
1525,  we  read  in  a  petition  from  the  artists  :  "  Painters  and 
sculptors  beg,  that,  whereas,  through  the  Word  of  God 
their  handicraft  has  died  out  they  may  be  provided  with 
posts  before  other  claimants."  The  Council  answered  that 
their  appeal  would  "  be  borne  in  mind."2 

1  Dollinger,  "  Reformation,"  2,  p.  318. 

-  "  Mitteil.  der  Gesellschaft  f.  Erhaltung  der  geschtl.  Denkmaler 
im  Elsass,"  15,  1892,  p.  248.  Janssen,  "  Hist,  of  the  German  People  " 
(Engl.  Trans.),  xi„  p.  46. 

WORKS    OF  ART  223 

The  verses  of  Hans  Sachs  of  Nuremberg  are  well-known  : 

"  Bell-founders  and  organists, 

Gold-beaters  and  illuminists, 
Hand-painters,  carvers  and  goldsmiths, 

Glass-painters,  silk-workers,  coppersmiths, 
Stone-masons,  carpenters  and  joiners, 

'Gainst  all  these  did  Luther  wield  a  sword. 
From  Thee  we  ask  a  verdict,  Lord." 

In  the  poet's  industrious  and  artistic  native  town  the  decline 
must  have  been  particularly  noticeable.  According  to  the 
popular  Lutheran  poet  of  Nuremberg  the  fault  is  with  the 
complainants  themselves,  who, 

"  With  scorn  disdain 
From  greed  of  gain  " 

the  Word  of  Christ.  "They  must  cease  worrying  about 
worldly  goods  like  the  heathen,  but  must  seek  the  Kingdom 
of  God  with  eagerness."1 

It  is  perfectly  true  that  the  words  that  Hans  Sachs  on 
this  occasion  places  in  the  mouth  of  the  complainant  are 
unfair  to  Luther  : 

"  All  church  building  and  adorning  he  despises, 
Treats  with  scorning, 
He  not  wise  is."2 

For  in  spite  of  his  attacks  on  the  veneration  of  images,  on 
the  Catholic  doctrine  of  the  Eucharist  and  the  meritorious- 
ness  of  pious  foundations,  Luther  was,  nevertheless,  not  so 
"  unwise  "  as  to  despise  the  "  building  and  adorning  "  of 
the  churches,  where,  after  all,  the  congregation  must 
assemble  for  preaching,  communion  and  prayer.3 

That  Luther  was  not  devoid  of  a  sense  of  the  beautiful 
and  of  its  practical  value  in  the  service  of  religion  is  proved 
by  his  outspoken  love  of  music,  particularly  of  church-music, 
his  numerous  poetic  efforts,  no  less  than  by  that  strongly 
developed  appreciation  of  well-turned  periods,  clearness  and 
force  of  diction  so  well  seen  in  his  translation  of  the  Bible. 
His  life's  struggle,  however,  led  him  along  paths  which  make 

1  E.  Weller,  "  Der  Volksdichter  Hans  Sachs  u.  seine  Dichtungen," 
1868,  p.  118  ff.  2  lb. 

3  He  frequently  laments  that  the  churches  were  too  ill-provided  for. 
Cp.  Walch's  Index,  s.v.  "  Kirche,"  &  "  Gotteshauser." 


it  easy  to  understand  how  it  is  that  he  has  so  little  to  say  in 
his  writings  in  commendation  of  the  other  liberal  arts.  It 
also  explains  the  baldness  of  his  reminiscences  of  his  visit  to 
Italy  and  the  city  of  Rome  ;  the  young  monk,  immersed  in 
his  theology,  was  even  then  pursuing  quite  other  interests 
than  those  of  art.  It  is  true  Luther,  once,  in  one  of  the  rare 
passages  in  favour  of  ecclesiastical  art,  speaking  from  his 
own  point  of  view,  says  :  "  It  is  better  to  paint  on  the  wall 
how  God  created  the  world,  how  Noah  made  the  ark  and 
such-like  pious  tales,  than  to  paint  worldly  and  shameless 
subjects  ;  would  to  God  I  could  persuade  the  gentry  and  the 
rich  to  have  the  whole  Bible  story  painted  on  their  houses, 
inside  and  out,  for  everyone's  eye  to  see  ;  that  would  be 
a  good  Christian  work."1  Manifestly  he  did  not  intend  his 
words  to  be  taken  too  literally  in  the  case  of  dwelling-houses. 
A  fighter  such  as  Luther  was  scarcely  the  right  man  to  give 
any  real  stimulus  in  the  domain  of  art.  The  heat  of  his 
religious  polemics  scorched  up  in  his  soul  any  good  dis- 
positions of  this  sort  which  may  once  have  existed,  and 
blighted  in  its  very  beginnings  the  growth  of  any  real 
feeling  for  art  among  his  zealous  followers.  Hardly  a  single 
passage  can  be  found  in  which  he  expresses  any  sense  of 
satisfaction  in  the  products  of  the  artist. 

It  is  generally  admitted  that  in  the  16th  century  German 
art  suffered  a  severe  set-back.  For  this  the  bitter  contro- 
versies which  for  the  while  transformed  Germany  into  a 
hideous  battlefield  were  largely  responsible ;  for  such  a  soil 
could  not  but  prove  unfavourable  for  the  arts  and  crafts. 
The  very  artists  themselves  were  compelled  to  prostitute 
their  talents  in  ignoble  warfare.  We  need  only  call  to  mind 
the  work  of  the  two  painters  Cranach,  the  Elder  and  the 
Younger,  and  the  horrid  flood  of  caricatures  and  base 
vilifications  cast  both  in  poetry  and  in  prose.  "  The  rock 
on  which  art  suffered  shipwreck  was  not,  as  a  recent  art- 
writer  says,  the  fact  that  '  German  art  was  too  early  severed 
from  its  bond  with  the  Church,'  but  that,  with  regard  to  its 
subject-matter  and  its  methods  of  expression,  it  was  forced 
into  false  service  by  the  intellectual  and  religious  leaders."2 

1  "  Werke,"  Weim.  ed.,  18,  p.  82  f.  ;   Erl.  ed.,  29,  p.  158. 

2  See  P.  Lehfeldt,  "  Luthers  Verhaltnis  zu  Kunst  und  Kiinstlern," 
Berlin,  1892,  p.  84.  Janssen,  ib.,  xi.,  39. — On  the  whole  subject  see 
Janssen,  "Hist,  of  the  German  People"  (Engl.  Trans.),  vol.  xi.,  ch.  ii. 



1.  His  Persistent  Depression  in  Later  Years 
Persecution  Mania  and  Morbid  Fancies 

Among  the  various  causes  of  the  profound  ill-humour  and 
despondency,  which  more  and  more  overshadowed  Luther's 
soul  during  the  last  ten  years  of  his  life,  the  principal  without 
a  doubt  was  his  bitter  disappointment. 

He  was  disappointed  with  what  he  himself  calls  the 
"  pitiable  spectacle  "  presented  by  his  Church  no  less  than 
with  the  firmness  and  stability  of  the  Papacy.  Not  only 
did  the  Papal  Antichrist  refuse  to  bow  to  the  new  Evangel 
or  to  be  overthrown  "  by  the  mere  breath  of  Christ's 
mouth,"  as  Luther  had  confidently  proclaimed  would  be  the 
case,  but,  in  the  evening  of  his  days,  it  was  actually  growing 
in  strength,  its  members  standing  shoulder  to  shoulder  ready 
at  last  to  seek  inward  reform  by  means  of  a  General  Council. 

The  melancholy  to  which  he  had  been  subject  in  earlier 
years  had  been  due  to  other  thoughts  which  not  seldom 
pressed  upon  him,  to  his  uncertainty  and  fear  of  having 
to  answer  before  the  Judge.  In  his  old  age  such  fears 
diminished,  and  the  voices  which  had  formerly  disquieted 
him  scarcely  ever  reached  the  threshold  of  his  consciousness  ; 
by  dint  of  persistent  effort  he  had  hardened  himself  against 
such  "  temptations."  The  idea  of  his  Divine  call  was  ever 
in  his  mind,  though,  alas,  it  proved  only  too  often  a  blind 
guide  incapable  of  transforming  his  sense  of  discouragement 
into  any  confidence  worthy  of  the  name.  At  times  this  idea 
flickers  up  more  brightly  than  usual ;  when  this  happens 
his  weariness  seems  entirely  to  disappear  and  makes  room 
for  the  frightful  outbursts  of  bitterness,  hate  and  anger  of 
a  soul  at  odds  both  with  itself  and  with  the  whole  world. 

Doubtless  his  state  of  health  had  a  good  deal  to  do  with 
v.— q  225 


this,  for,  in  his  feverish  activity,  he  had  become  unmindful 
of  certain  precautions.  Lost  in  his  exhausting  literary 
labours  and  public  controversies  his  state  of  nervous  excite- 
ment became  at  last  unbearable. 

The  depression  which  is  laying  its  hand  on  him  manifests 
itself  in  the  hopeless,  pessimistic  tone  of  his  complaints  to 
his  friends,  in  his  conviction  of  being  persecuted  by  all,  in 
his  superstitious  interpretations  of  the  Bible  and  the  signs 
of  the  times,  in  his  expectation  of  the  near  end  of  all,  and  in 
his  firm  persuasion  that  the  devil  bestrides  and  rules  the 

His  Depression  and  Pessimism 

Disgust  with  work  and  even  with  life  itself,  and  an 
appalling  unconcern  in  the  whole  course  of  public  affairs, 
are  expressed  in  some  of  his  letters  to  his  friends. 

"  I  am  old  and  worked  out — '  old,  cold  and  out  of  shape,'  as 
they  say — and  yet  cannot  find  any  rest,  so  greatly  am  I  tormented 
every  day  with  all  manner  of  business  and  scribbling.  I  now 
know  rather  more  of  the  portents  of  the  end  of  this  world  ;  that 
it  is  indeed  on  its  last  legs  is  quite  certain,  with  Satan  raging  so 
furiously  and  the  world  becoming  so  utterly  beastly.  My  only 
remaining  consolation  is  that  the  end  cannot  be  far  off.  Now  at 
last  fewer  false  doctrines  will  spring  up,  the  world  being  weary 
and  sick  of  the  Word  of  God  ;  for  if  they  take  to  living  like 
Epicureans  and  to  despising  the  Word,  who  will  then  have  any 
hankering  after  heresies  ?  .  .  .  Let  us  pray  '  Thy  will  be  done,' 
and  leave  everything  to  take  its  course,  to  fall  or  stand  or  perish  ; 
let  things  go  their  own  way  if  otherwise  they  will  not  go."  "  Ger- 
many," he  says,  "  has  had  its  day  and  will  never  again  be  what 
it  once  was  "  ;  divided  against  itself  it  must,  so  he  fancies, 
succumb  to  the  devil's  army  embodied  in  the  Turks.  This  to 
Jakob  Probst,  the  Bremen  preacher.1  Not  long  after  he  wrote 
to  the  same  :  "  Germany  is  full  of  scorners  of  the  Word.  .  .  . 
Our  sins  weigh  heavily  upon  us  as  you  know,  but  it  is  useless  for 
us  to  grumble.  Let  things  take  their  course,  seeing  they  are 
going  thus."2 

To  Amsdorf  he  says  in  a  letter  that  he  would  gladly  die.  "  The 
world  is  a  dreadful  Sodom."  "  And,  moreover,  it  will  grow  still 
worse."  "  Could  I  but  pass  away  with  such  a  faith,  such  peace, 
such  a  falling  asleep  in  the  Lord  as  my  daughter  [who  had  just 
died]  !  "3  Similarly,  in  another  letter  to  Amsdorf  we  read  : 
"  Before  the  flood  the  world  was  as  Germany  now  is  before  her 
downfall.  Since  they  refuse  to  listen  they  must  be  taught  by 
experience.    Jt  will  cry  out  with  Jeremias  [li.  9]  :    '  We  would 

1  March  26,  1542,  "  Briefe,"  5,  p.  451. 

2  Oct.  9,  1542,  ib.,  p.  501.  3  Oct.  29,  1542,  ib.,  p.  502. 


have  cured  Babylon,  but  she  is  not  healed;  let  us  forsake  her.' 
God  is  indeed  our  salvation,  and  to  all  eternity  will  He  shield 

11  We  will  rejoice  in  our  tribulation,"  so  he  encourages  his 
former  guest  Cordatus,  "  and  leave  things  to  go  their  way  ;  it- 
is  enough  that  we,  and  you  too,  should  cause  the  sun  of  our 
teaching  to  rise  all  cloudless  over  the  wicked  world,  after  the 
example  of  God  our  Father,  Who  makes  His  sun  to  shine  on  the 
just  and  the  unjust.  The  sun  of  our  doctrine  is  His  ;  what  wonder 
then  if  people  hate  us."  "  Thus  we  can  see,"  so  he  concludes 
that  "  outwardly  we  live  in  the  kingdom  of  the  devil."2 

Plunged  in  such  melancholy  he  is  determined,  without 
trusting  in  human  help,  so  he  writes  to  his  friend  Jonas,  "  to 
leave  the  guidance  of  all  things  to  Christ  alone  "  ;  of  all 
active  work  he  was  too  weary  ;  everything  was  "  full  of 
deception  and  hypocrisy,  particularly  amongst  the  power- 
ful "  ;  to  sigh  and  pray  was  the  best  thing  to  do  ;  "  let  us 
put  out  of  our  heads  any  thought  and  plans  for  helping 
matters,  for  all  is  alike  useless  and  deceitful,  as  experience 

Christ  had  taken  on  Himself  the  quieting  of  consciences, 
hence,  with  all  the  more  confidence,  "  might  they  entrust  to 
Him  the  outcome  of  the  struggle  between  the  true  Church 
and  the  powers  of  Satan."  "  True,  Christ  seems  at  times," 
he  writes  to  his  friend  Johann  August,  "to  be  weaker  than 
Satan  ;  but  His  strength  will  be  made  perfect  in  our  weak- 
ness (2  Cor.  xii.  9),  His  wisdom  is  exalted  in  our  foolishness, 
His  goodness  is  glorified  in  our  sins  and  misdeeds  in  accord- 
ance with  His  wonderful  and  inscrutable  ways.  May  He 
strengthen  you  and  us,  and  conform  us  to  His  likeness  for 
the  honour  of  His  mercy."4 

During  such  a  period  of  depression  his  fears  are  redoubled 
when  he  hears  of  the  atrocities  perpetrated  by  the  Turks 
at  Stuhlweissenburg ;  the  following  is  his  interpretation 
of  the  event :  "  Satan  has  noticed  the  approach  of  the 
Judgment  Day  and  shows  his  fear.  What  may  be  his 
designs  on  us  ?  He  rages  because  his  time  is  now  short. 
May  God  help  us  manfully  to  laugh  at  all  his  fury  !  "  He 
laments  with  grim  irony  the  greed  for  gain  and  the  treachery 
of  the  great.  "  Devour  everything  in  the  devil's  name,"  he 
cries  to  them,  "  Hell  will  glut  you,"  and  continues  :  "  Come, 

1  Nov.  7,  1543,  ib.,  p.  600.      2  Dec.  3,  1544,  ib.,  p.  702. 
3  March  13,  1542,  ib.,  p.  444.    *  Oct.  5,  1542,  ib.,  p.  501. 


Lord  Jesus,  come,  hearken  to  the  sighing  of  Thy  Church, 
hasten  Thy  coming ;  wickedness  is  reaching  its  utmost 
limit ;  soon  it  must  come  to  a  head,  Amen." 

Even  this  did  not  suffice  and  Luther  again  adds  :  "I  have 
written  the  above  because  it  seems  better  than  nothing. 
Farewell,  and  teach  the  Church  to  pray  for  the  Day  of  the 
Lord ;  for  there  is  no  hope  of  a  better  time  coming.  God 
will  listen  only  when  we  implore  the  quick  advent  of  our 
redemption,  in  which  all  the  portents  agree."1 

The  outpourings  of  bitterness  and  disgust  with  life,  which 
Antony  Lauterbach  noted  while  a  guest  at  Luther's  table 
in  1538,  find  a  still  stronger  echo  in  the  Table-Talk  collected 
by  Mathesius  in  the  years  subsequent  to  1540. 

In  Lauterbach's  Notes  he  still  speaks  of  his  inner  struggles 
with  the  devil,  i.e.  with  his  conscience  ;  this  was  no  longer  the 
case  when  Mathesius  knew  him  :  "  We  are  plagued  and  troubled 
by  the  devil,  whose  bones  are  very  tough  until  we  learn  to  crack 
them.  Paul  and  Christ  had  enough  to  do  with  the  devil.  I,  too, 
have  my  daily  combats."2  He  had  learnt  how  hard  it  was  "  when 
mental  temptations  come  upon  us  and  we  say,  '  Accursed  be 
the  day  I  was  born  '  "  ;  rather  would  he  endure  the  worst  bodily 
pains  during  which  at  least  one  could  still  say,  "  Blessed  be  the 
Name  of  the  Lord."3  The  passages  in  question  will  be  quoted 
at  greater  length  below. 

But  according  to  Lauterbach's  Notes  of  his  sayings  he  was  also 
very  bitter  about  the  general  state  of  things  :  "  It  is  the  world's 
way  to  think  of  nothing  but  of  money,"  he  says,  for  instance, 
"  as  though  on  it  hung  soul  and  body.  God  and  our  neighbour 
are  despised  and  people  serve  Mammon.  Only  look  at  our 
times  ;  see  how  full  all  the  great  ones,  the  burghers  too,  and  the 
peasants,  are  with  avarice  and  how  they  stamp  upon  religion. 
.  .  .  Horrible  times  will  come,  worse  even  than  befell  Sodom  and 
Gomorrha  !  "4 — "  All  sins,"  he  complains,  "  rage  mightily,  as  we 
see  to-day,  because  the  world  of  a  sudden  has  grown  so  wanton 
and  calls  down  God's  wrath  upon  its  head."  In  these  words  he 
was  bewailing,  as  Lauterbach  relates,  the  "  impending  mis- 
fortunes of  Germany."5 — "The  Church  to-day  is  more  tattered 
than  any  beggar's  cloak."8  "  The  world  is  made  up  of  nothing 
but  contempt,  blasphemy,  disobedience,  adultery,  pride  and 
thieving  ;  it  is  now  in  prime  condition  for  the  slaughter-house. 
And  Satan  gives  us  no  rest,  what  with  Turk,  Pope  and  fanatics."7 

"  Who  would  have  started  preaching,"  he  says  in  the  same 
year,  oppressed  by  such  experiences,  "  had  he  known  beforehand 

1  Dec.  16,  1543,  ib.,  p.  611  f. 

2  Lauterbach,  "  Tagebuch,"  p.  144. 

3  lb.,  p.  105.  4  lb.,  p.  140.  5  jb.?  p.  122. 
6  lb.,  p.  113.                7  lb.,  p.  132. 

HIS    LOW   SPIRITS  229 

that  such  misfortune,  fanatism,  scandal,  blasphemy,  ingratitude 
and  wickedness  would  be  the  sequel  ?  "*  To  live  any  longer  he 
had  not  the  slightest  wish  now  that  no  peace  was  to  be  hoped 
for  from  the  fanatics.2  He  even  wished  his  wife  and  children  to 
follow  him  to  the  grave  without  delay  because  of  the  evil  times 
to  come  soon  after.3 

In  the  conversations  taken  down  by  Mathesius  in  the  'forties 
Luther's  weariness  of  life  finds  even  stronger  expression,  nor  are 
the  words  in  which  he  describes  it  of  the  choicest  :  "I  have  had 
enough  of  the  world  and  it,  too,  has  had  enough  of  me ;  with  this 
I  am  well  content.  It  fancies  that,  were  it  only  rid  of  me,  all 
would  be  well.  ..."  As  I  have  often  repeated  :  "I  am  the 
ripe  shard  and  the  world  is  the  gaping  anus,  hence  the  parting 
will  be  a  happy  one."4  "As  I  have  often  repeated";  the 
repulsive  comparison  had  indeed  become  a  favourite  one  with 
him  in  his  exasperation.  Other  sayings  in  the  Table-Talk  contain 
unmistakable  allusions  to  the  bodily  excretions  as  a  term  of 
comparison  to  Luther's  so  ardently  desired  departure  from  this 
world.5  The  same  coarse  simile  is  met  in  his  letters  dating  from 
this  time.6 

The  reason  of  his  readiness  to  depart,  viz.  the  world's  hatred 
for  his  person,  he  elsewhere  depicts  as  follows  ;  the  politicians 
who  were  against  him,  particularly  those  at  the  Dresden  court, 
are  "  Swine,"  deserving  of  "  hell-fire  "  ;  let  them  at  least  leave 
in  peace  our  Master,  the  Son  of  God,  and  the  Kingdom  of  Heaven 
also  ;  with  a  quiet  conscience  we  look  upon  them  as  abandoned 
bondsmen  of  the  devil,  whose  oaths  though  sworn  to  a  hundred 
times  over  are  not  the  least  worthy  of  belief  ;  "  we  must  scorn 
the  devil  in  these  devils  and  sons  of  devils,  yea,  in  this  seed  of 
the  serpent."7 

"  The  gruff,  boorish  Saxon,"8  as  Luther  calls  himself,  here 
comes  to  the  fore.  He  seeks,  however,  to  refrain  from  dwelling 
unduly  on  the  growing  lack  of  appreciation  shown  for  his  au- 
thority ;  he  was  even  ready,  so  he  said,  "  gladly  to  nail  to  the 
Cross  those  blasphemers  and  Satan  with  them."9 

"  I  thank  Thee,  my  good  God,"  he  once  said  in  the  winter 
1542-43  to  Mathesius  and  the  other  people  at  table,  "  for  letting 
me  be  one  of  the  little  flock  that  suffers  persecution  for  Thy  Word's 
sake  ;  for  they  do  not  persecute  me  for  adultery  or  usury,  as  I 
well  know."10  According  to  the  testimony  of  Mathesius  he  also 
said  :  "  The  Courts  are  full  of  Eceboli  and  folk  who  change  with 
the  weather.     If  only  a  real  sovereign  like  Constantine  came  to 

1  Below,  xxxii.,  6. 

2  Lauterbach,  "  Tagebuch,"  p.  114,  in  1538.  3  lb.,  p.  105. 

*  Mathesius,  "  Tischreden,"  ed.  Kroker,  p.  303. 

5  According  to  Mathesius  ("Historien,"  p.  146)  he  once  said  even 
in  the  pulpit  :   "A  full  belly  and  ripe  dung  are  easily  parted." 

•  To  Anton  Lauterbach,  Nov.  3,  1543,  "  Briefe,"  5,  p.  598.        7  lb. 

8  Mathesius,  "  Tischreden,"  p.  156  ;   "  Aufzeichn.,"  p.  117. 

9  To  Lauterbach,  ib.  10  Mathesius,  "  Tischreden,"  p.  303. 


his  Court  [the  Elector's]  we  should  soon  see  who  would  kiss  the 
Pope's  feet."  "  Many  remain  good  Evangelicals  because  there 
are  still  chalices,  monstrances  and  cloistral  lands  to  be  taken."1 
That  a  large  number,  not  only  of  the  high  officials,  but  even  of 
the  "  gentry  and  yokels,"  were  "  tired  "  of  him  is  clear  from 
statements  made  by  him  as  early  as  1530.  Wishing  then  to  visit 
his  father  who  lay  sick,  he  was  dissuaded  by  his  friends  from 
undertaking  the  journey  on  account  of  the  hostility  of  the 
country  people  towards  his  person  :  "I  am  compelled  to  believe," 
so  he  wrote  to  the  sick  man,  "  that  I  ought  not  to  tempt  God  by 
venturing  into  danger,  for  you  know  how  both  gentry  and  yokels 
feel  towards  me."2  "  Amongst  the  charges  that  helped  to  lessen 
his  popularity  was  his  supposed  complicity  in  the  Peasant  War 
and  in  the  rise  of  the  Sacramentarians."3 

"  Would  that  I  and  all  my  children  were  dead,"  so  he  repeats, 
according  to  Mathesius,4  "  Satur  sum  huius  vitae  "  ;  it  was  well 
for  the  young,  that,  in  their  thoughtlessness  and  inexperience, 
they  failed  to  see  the  mischief  of  all  the  scandals  rampant,  for 
else  "they  would  not  be  able  to  go  on  living."5 — "The  world 
cannot  last  much  longer.  Amongst  us  there  is  the  utmost  in- 
gratitude and  contempt  for  the  Word,  whilst  amongst  the  Papists 
there  is  nothing  but  blood  and  blasphemy.  This  will  soon  knock 
the  bottom  out  of  the  cask."6  There  would  be  no  lack  of  other 
passages  to  the  same  effect  to  quote  from  Mathesius. 

Some  of  the  Grounds  for  His  Lowness  of  Spirits 

Luther  is  so  communicative  that  it  is  easy  enough  to  fix 
on  the  various  reasons  for  his  depression,  which  indeed  he 
himself  assigns. 

To  Melanchthon  Luther  wrote  :  "  The  enmity  of  Satan  is  too 
Satanic  for  him  not  to  be  plotting  something  for  our  undoing. 
He  feels  that  we  are  attacking  him  in  a  vital  spot  with  the  eternal 
truth." 7  Here  it  is  his  gloomy  forebodings  concerning  the  outcome 
of  the  religious  negotiations,  particularly  those  of  Worms,  which 
lead  him  so  to  write.  The  course  of  public  events  threw  fresh 
fuel  on  the  flame  of  his  anger.  "  I  have  given  up  all  hope  in  this 
colloquy.  ,  .  .  Our  theological  gainstanders,"  so  he  says,  "  are 
possessed  of  Satan,  however  much  they  may  disguise  themselves 
in  majesty  and  as  angels  of  light."8 — Then  there  was  the  terrifying 
onward  march  of  the  Turks :    "  O  raging  fury,  full  of  all  manner 

1  "  Hist.,"  p.  145'  f.  Ecebolius,  under  the  Emperor  Constantine, 
a  type  of  the  hypocrite. 

2  To  Hans  Luther,  Feb.  15,  1530,  "  Werke,"  Erl.  ed.,  24,  p.  130 
("  Brief wechsel,"  7,  p.  230). 

3  Lauterbach,  "  Tagebuch,"  p.  127. 

4  Mathesius,  "  Tischreden,"  p.  288. 

5  lb.,  p.  179.  6  lb.,  p.  155. 
7  Dec.  7,  1540,  "  Briefe,"  5,  p.  322.  8  lb. 


of  devils."  Such  is  his  excitement  that  he  suspects  the  Christian 
hosts  of  "  the  most  fatal  and  terrible  treachery."1 

The  devil,  however,  also  lies  in  wait  even  for  his  friends  to 
estrange  them  from  him  by  delusions  and  distresses  of  conscience  ; 
this  knowledge  wrings  from  him  the  admonition  :  "  Away  with 
the  sadness  of  the  devil,  to  whom  Christ  sends  His  curse,  who 
seeks  to  make  out  Christ  as  the  judge,  whereas  He  is  rather  the 
consoler."2  Satan  just  then  was  bent  on  worrying  him  through 
the  agency  of  the  Swiss  Zwinglians  :  "I  have  already  condemned 
and  now  condemn  anew  these  fanatics  and  puffed-up  idlers."  Now 
they  refuse  to  admit  my  victories  against  the  Pope,  and  actually 
claim  that  it  was  all  their  doing.  "  Thus  does  one  man  toil 
only  for  another  to  reap  the  harvest."3  These  satellites  of  Satan 
who  work  against  him  and  against  all  Christendom  are  hell's 
own  resource  for  embittering  his  old  age. 

Then  again  the  dreadful  state  of  morals,  particularly  at 
Wittenberg,  under  his  very  eyes,  makes  his  anger  burst  forth 
again  and  again ;  even  in  his  letter  of  congratulation  to  Justus 
Jonas  on  the  latter's  second  marriage  he  finds  opportunity  to 
have  a  dig  at  the  easy-going  Wittenberg  magistrates  :  "  There 
might  be  ten  trulls  here  infecting  no  end  of  students  with  the 
French  disease  and  yet  no  one  would  lift  a  ringer  ;  when  half  the 
town  commits  adultery,  no  one  sits  in  judgment.  .  .  .  The  world 
is  indeed  a  vexatious  thing."  The  civic  authorities,  according 
to  him,  were  but  a  "  plaything  in  the  devil's  hand." 

At  other  times  his  ill-humour  vents  itself  on  the  Jews,  the 
lawyers,  or  those  German  Protestant  Reformers  who  had  the 
audacity  to  hold  opinions  at  variance  with  his.  Carlstadt,  with 
his  "monstrous  assertions"4  against  Luther,  still  poisons  the  air 
even  when  Luther  has  the  consolation  of  knowing,  that,  on 
Carlstadt's  death  (in  1541),  he  had  been  fetched  away  by  the 
"  devil."  Carlstadt's  horrid  doctrines  tread  Christ  under  foot, 
just  as  Schwenckf eld's  fanaticism  is  the  unmaking  of  the  Churches. 

Then  again  there  are  demagogues  within  the  fold  who  say  : 
"  I  am  your  Pope,  what  care  I  for  Dr.  Martin  ?  "  These,  according 
to  him,  are  in  almost  as  bad  case  as  the  others.  Thus,  "during 
our  lifetime,  this  is  the  way  the  world  rewards  us,  for  and  on  this 
account  and  behalf  !  And  yet  we  are  expected  to  pray  and  heed 
lest  the  Turk  slay  such  Christians  as  these  who  really  are  worse 
than  the  Turks  themselves  !  As  though  it  would  not  be  better, 
if  the  yoke  of  the  Turk  must  indeed  come  upon  us,  to  serve  the 
Turkish  foeman  and  stranger  rather  than  the  Turks  in  our  own 
circle  and  household.  God  will  laugh  at  them  when  they  cry  to 
Him  in  the  day  of  their  distress,  because  they  mocked  at  Him  by 
their  sins  and  refused  to  hearken  to  Him  when  He  spoke,  implored, 
exhorted,  and  did  everything,  stood  and  suffered  everything, 
when  His  heart  was  troubled  on  their  account,  when  He  called 

1  To  Justus  Jonas,  Jan.  26,  1543,  ib.,  p.  534. 

2  To  Spalatin,  Aug.  21,  1544,  ib.,  p.  679  f. 

3  To  Amsdorf,  April  14,  1545,  ib.,  p.  728. 

4  June  18,  1543,  ib.,  p.  570. 


them  by  His  holy  prophets,  and  even  rose  up  early  on  their 
account  (Jer.  vii.  13  ;  xi.  7).1  But  such  is  their  way  ;  they  know 
that  it  is  God  Whose  Word  we  preach  and  yet  they  say  :  "  We 
shan't  listen.  In  short,  the  wildest  of  wild  furies  have  broken 
into  them,"  etc.2 

Thus  was  he  wont  to  rave  when  "  excited,"  though  not 
until,  so  at  least  he  assures  us,  having  first  "  by  dint  of  much 
striving  put  down  his  anger,  his  thoughts  and  his  tempta- 
tions." "  Blessed  be  the  Lord  Who  has  spoken  to  me,  com- 
forting me  :  4  Why  callest  thou  ?  Let  things  go  their  own 
way.' ';  It  grieves  him,  so  he  tells  us,  to  see  the  country  he 
loves  going  to  rack  and  ruin ;  Germany  is  his  fatherland,  and, 
before  his  very  eyes,  it  is  hastening  to  destruction.  "  But 
God's  ways  are  just,  we  may  not  resist  them.  May  God 
have  mercy  on  us  for  no  one  believes  us."  Even  the  doctrine 
of  letting  things  go  their  own  way — to  which  in  his  pessim- 
ism Luther  grew  attached  in  later  life — he  was  firmly 
convinced  had  come  to  him  directly  from  the  Lord,  Who 
had  "  consolingly  "  whispered  to  him  these  words.  Even 
this  saying  reeks  of  his  peculiar  pseudo-mysticism. 

All  the  above  outbursts  are,  however,  put  into  the  shade 
by  the  utter  ferocity  of  his  ravings  against  Popery.  Painful 
indeed  are  the  effects  of  his  gloomy  frame  of  mind  on  his 
attitude  towards  Rome.  The  battle-cries,  which,  in  one  of 
his  last  works,  viz.  his  "  Wider  das  Babstum  vom  Teuffel 
gestifft,"  Luther  hurls  against  the  Church,  which  had  once 
nourished  him  at  her  bosom,  form  one  of  the  saddest 
instances  of  human  aberration. 

Yet,  speaking  of  this  work,  the  author  assures  a  friend 
that,  "  in  this  angry  book  I  have  done  justice  neither  to 
myself  nor  to  the  greatness  of  my  anger  ;  but  I  am  quite 
aware  that  this  I  shall  never  be  able  to  do."3  "  For  no  tongue 
can  tell,"  so  he  says,  "  the  appalling  and  frightful  enormities 
of  the  Papal  abomination,  its  substance,  quantity,  quality, 
predicaments,  predicables,  categories,  its  species,  properties, 
differences  and  accidents."4 

1  To  Justus  Jonas,  Feb.  25,  1542,  ib.,  p.  439  :  "  Carlstadii  ista  sunt 

2  Ib.  :  "  Furiis  juriosis  aguntur,  quia  ira  Dei  pervenit  super  eos 
usque  in  finem.  Quare  ergo  propter  istos  perditos  nos  conficere  volumus  ? 
Mitte,  vadere  sicut  vadit." 

3  To  Dr.  Ratzeberger,  the  Elector's  physician,  Aug.  6,  1545, 
"  Briefe,"  5,  p.  754. 

4  April  14,  1545,  ib.,  a  letter  not  in  the  least  intended  as  a  joke. 


The  more  distorted  and  monstrous  his  charges,  the  more 
they  seem  to  have  pleased  him  when  in  this  temper. 

In  a  morbid  way  he  now  heaps  together  his  wonted  hyperboles 
to  such  an  extent,  that,  at  times,  it  becomes  very  tiresome  to 
read  his  writings  and  letters  ;  no  hateful  image  or  suspicion 
seems  to  him  sufficiently  bad.  "  Though  God  Himself  were  to 
offer  me  Paradise  for  living  another  forty  years,  I  should  prefer 
to  hire  an  executioner  to  chop  off  my  head,  for  the  world  is  so 
wicked  ;  they  are  all  becoming  rank  devils."1  He  compares  his 
own  times  to  those  which  went  before  the  Flood ;  the  "  rain  of 
filth  will  soon  begin  "  ;  he  goes  on  to  say  that  he  no  longer 
understands  his  own  times  and  finds  himself  as  it  were  in  a  strange 
world  ;  "  either  I  have  never  seen  the  world,  or,  while  I  am 
asleep,  a  new  world  is  born  daily  ;  not  one  but  fancies  he  is 
suffering  injustice,  and  not  one  but  is  convinced  he  does  no 
injustice."2  With  a  strange  note  of  contempt  he  says:  "Let 
the  world  be  upset,  kicked  over  and  thrust  aside,  seeing  it  not 
only  rejects  and  persecutes  God's  Word,  but  rages  even  against 
sound  common  sense.  .  .  .  Even  the  seven  devils  of  Cologne,  who 
sit  in  the  highest  temple,  and  who,  like  some  of  the  council,  still 
withstand  us,  will  God  overthrow,  Who  breaks  down  the  cedars 
of  Lebanon.  On  account  of  this  [the  actual  and  hoped-for  suc- 
cesses at  Cologne]  we  will  rejoice  in  the  Lord,  because  by  His 
Word  He  does  such  great  things  before  our  very  eyes."3 

Here,  as  elsewhere  too,  in  spite  of  all  his  ill-humour,  the 
progress  of  his  Evangel  inspires  him  with  hope.  Nor  is  his 
dark  mood  entirely  unbroken,  for,  from  time  to  time,  his 
love  of  a  joke  gets  the  better  of  it.  His  chief  *  consolation 
was,  however,  his  self-imposed  conviction  that  his  teaching 
was  the  true  one. 

A  certain  playfulness  is  apparent  in  many  of  his  letters, 
for  instance,  in  those  to  Jonas,  one  of  his  most  intimate  of 
friends  :  "  Here  is  a  conundrum,"  writes  Luther  to  him, 
"  which  my  guests  ask  me  to  put  to  you.  Does  God,  the 
wise  administrator,  annually  bestow  on  the  children  of  men 
more  wine  or  more  milk  ?  I  think  more  milk  ;  but  do  you 
give  your  answer.  And  a  second  question  :  Would  a  barrel 
that  reached  from  Wittenberg  to  Kemberg  be  large  and 
ample  enough  to  hold  all  the  wine  that  our  unwise,  silly, 
foolish  God  wastes  and  throws  away  on  the  most  ungrateful 
of  His  children,  setting  it  before  Henries  and  Alberts,  the 

1  "  Colloq.,"  ed.  Bindseil,  3,  p.  185.     Rebenstock,  in  Bindseil,  I.e. 

3  To  Amsdorf,  Aug.  18,  1543,  "  Briefe,"  5,  p.  584.  Cp.  p.  789  :  "  ne 
tandem  fiat  quod  ante  diluvium  factum  esse  scribit  Moises,"  etc. 

4  lb.,  p.  585. 

234         LUTHER  THE  REFORMER 

Pope  and  the  Turk,  all  of  them  men  who  crucify  His  Son, 
whereas  before  His  own  children  He  sets  nothing  but  water  ? 
You  see  that,  though  I  am  not  much  better  than  a  corpse, 
I  still  love  to  chat  and  jest  with  you."1 

In  the  Table-Talk,  recently  published  by  Kroker  from  the 
notes  taken  by  Mathesius  in  the  last  years  of  Luther's  life, 
the  latter's  irrepressible  and  saving  tendency  to  jest  is  very 
apparent ;  his  humour  here  is  also  more  spontaneous  than 
in  his  letters,  with  the  possible  exception  of  some  of  those 
he  wrote  to  Catherine  Bora.2 

Suspicion  and  Mania  of  Persecution 

A  growing  inclination  to  distrust,  to  seeing  enemies  every- 
where and  to  indulging  in  fearsome,  superstitious  fancies, 
stamps  with  a  peculiar  impress  his  prevailing  frame  of  mind. 

His  vivid  imagination  even  led  him,  in  April,  1544,  to 
speak  of  "  a  league  entered  into  between  the  Turks  and  the 
most  holy,  or  rather  most  silly,  Pope  "  ;  this  was  un- 
doubtedly one  of  the  "  great  signs  "  foretold  by  Christ  ; 
"  these  signs  are  here  in  truth  and  are  truly  great."3  "  The 
Pope  would  rather  adore  the  Turk,"  he  exclaims  later,  "  nay, 
even  Satan  himself,  than  allow  himself  to  be  put  in  order 
and  reformed  by  God's  Word  "  ;  he  even  finds  this  con- 
firmed in  a  new  "  Bull  or  Brief."4  He  has  heard  of  the 
peace  negotiations  with  the  Turks  on  the  part  of  the  Pope 
and  the  Emperor,  and  of  the  neutrality  of  Paul  III  towards 
the  Turcophil  King  of  France  ;  he  is  horrified  to  see  in 
spirit  an  embassy  of  peace,  "  loaded  with  costly  presents 
and  clad  in  Turkish  garments,"  wending  its  way  to  Con- 
stantinople, "  there  to  worship  the  Turk."  Such  was  the 
present  policy  of  the  Roman  Satan,  who  formerly  had  used 
indulgences,  annates  and  countless  other  forms  of  robbery 
to  curtail  the  Turkish  power.  "  Out  upon  these  Christians, 
out  upon  these  hellish  idols  of  the  devil  !  "5 — The  truth  is 
that,  whereas  the  Christian  States  winced  at  the  difficulties 

1  Sep.  3,  1541,  "  Briefe,"  5,  p.  396. 

2  On  the  psychology  of  his  humour,  see  below,  xxxi.,  5. 

3  To  Justus  Jonas,  April  17,  1544,  "  Briefe,"  5,  p.  642.  Cp.  p.  629  : 
"  testes  fidelissimi  "  report  an  alliance  between  the  Pope,  the  Turks, 
French  and  Venetians  against  the  Emperor.  "  Now  give  a  cheer  for 
the  Pope." 

4  To  Amsdorf,  Jan.  9,  1545,  "  Briefe,"  5,  p.  713. 

5  To  Amsdorf,  July  17,  1545,  ib.,  p.  750  f. 


or  sought  for  delay,  Pope  Paul  III,  faithful  to  the  traditional 
policy  of  the  Holy  See,  insisted  that  it  was  necessary  to 
oppose  by  every  possible  means  the  Turk  who  was  the 
Church's  foe  and  threatened  Europe  with  ruin.  The  only 
ground  that  Luther  can  have  had  for  his  suspicions  will 
have  been  the  better  relations  then  existing  between  the 
Pope  and  France  which  led  the  Turkish  fleet  to  spare  the 
Papal  territory  on  the  occasion  of  its  demonstration  at  the 
mouth  of  the  Tiber.1 

But  Luther  was  convinced  that  the  Pope  had  no  dearer 
hope  than  to  thwart  Germany,  and  the  Protesters  in  par- 
ticular. It  was  the  Pope  and  the  Papists  whom  he  accused  to 
Duke  Albert  of  Prussia  of  being  behind  the  Court  of  Bruns- 
wick and  of  hiring,  at  a  high  price,  the  services  of  assassins 
and  incendiaries.  To  Wenceslaus  Link  he  says,  that  it  will 
be  the  priests'  own  fault  if  the  saying  "  To  death  with  the 
priests  "  is  carried  into  practice  ;2  to  Melanchthon  he  also 
writes  :  "  I  verily  believe  that  all  the  priests  are  bent  on 
being  killed,  even  against  our  wish."3 — It  was  the  Papists 
sure  enough,  who  introduced  the  maid  Rosina  into  his 
house,  in  order  that  she  might  bring  it  into  disrepute  by  her 
immoral  life  ;4  they  had  also  sent  men  to  murder  him,  from 
whom,  however,  God  had  preserved  him  ;5  they  had  like- 
wise tried  to  poison  him,  but  all  to  no  purpose.6  We  may 
recall  how  he  had  said  :  "I  believe  that  my  pulpit-chair 
and  cushion  were  frequently  poisoned,  yet  God  preserved 
me."7  "  Many  attempts,  as  I  believe,  have  been  made  to 
poison  me."8 

He  had  even  once  declared  that  poisoning  was  a  regular 
business  with  Satan  :  "  He  can  bring  death  by  means  of  a  leaflet 
from  off  a  tree  ;  he  has  more  poison  phials  and  kinds  of  death  at 
his  beck  and  call  than  all  the  apothecaries  in  all  the  world  ;  if  one 
poison  doesn't  work  he  uses  another."9  He  had  long  been  con- 
vinced that  the  devil  was  able  to  carry  through  the  air  those  who 
made  themselves  over  to  him;  "we  must  not  call  in  the  devil, 

1  Cp.  Pastor,  "  Hist,  of  the  Popes  "  (Engl.  Trans.),  vol.  x. 

2  June-July,  1541,  "  Briefe,"  5,  p.  379. 

3  June,  22,  1541,  ib.,  p.  372. 

4  Vol.  iii.,  pp.  217,  280  f. 

5  "  Colloq,,"  ed.  Bindseil,  3,  p.  155. 

6  Mathesius,  "  Tischreden,"  p.  423.    In  1537. 

7  Above,  vol.  iii.,  p.  116. 

8  "  Colloq.,"  I.e.,  p.  156.    Cp.  Rebenstock,  in  Bindseil,  I.e. 

9  Schlaginhaufen,  "  Aufzeichn.,"  p.  125. 


for  he  comes  often  enough  uncalled,  and  loves  to  be  by  us, 
hardened  foe  of  ours  though  he  be.  .  .  .  He  is  indeed  a  great  and 
mighty  enemy."1  Towards  the  end  of  his  life,  in  1541,  it  came 
to  his  ears  that  the  devil  was  more  than  usually  busy  with  his 
poisons:  "At  Jena  and  elsewhere,"  so  he  warns  Melanchthon, 
"  the  devil  has  let  loose  his  poisoners.  It  is  a  wonder  to  me  why 
the  great,  knowing  the  fury  of  Satan,  are  not  more  watchful. 
Here  it  is  impossible  any  longer  to  buy  or  to  use  anything  with 
safety."  Melanchthon  was  therefore  to  be  careful  when  invited 
out ;  at  Erfurt  the  spices  and  aromatic  drugs  on  sale  in  the  shops 
had  been  found  to  be  mixed  with  poison  ;  at  Altenburg  as  many 
as  twelve  people  had  died  from  poison  taken  in  a  single  meal. 
Anxious  as  he  was  about  his  friend,  his  trust  was  nevertheless 
unshaken  in  the  protection  of  God  and  the  angels.  I  myself  am 
still  in  the  hands  of  my  Moses  (Katey),  he  adds,  "  suffering  from 
a  filthy  discharge  from  my  ear  and  meditating  in  turn  on  life 
and  on  death.  God's  Will  be  done.  Amen.  May  you  be  happy 
in  the  Lord  now  and  for  ever."2 

"  A  new  art  of  killing  us,"  so  he  tells  Melanchthon  in  the  same 
year,  had  been  invented  by  Satan,  viz.  of  mixing  poison  with  our 
wine  and  milk  ;  at  Jena  twelve  persons  were  said  to  have  died 
of  poisoned  wine,  "though  more  likely  of  too  much  drink";  at 
Magdeburg  and  Nordhausen,  however,  milk  had  been  found  in 
the  possession  of  the  sellers  that  seemed  to  have  been  poisoned. 
"  At  any  rate,  all  things  lie  under  Christ's  feet,  and  we  shall  suffer 
so  long  and  as  much  as  He  pleases.  For  the  nonce  we  are  supreme 
and  they  [the  Papist  '  monsters  ']  are  hurrying  to  destruction. 
...  So  long  as  the  Lord  of  Heaven  is  at  the  helm  we  are  safe, 
live  and  reign  and  have  our  foes  under  our  feet.  Amen."  Casting 
all  fear  to  the  winds  he  goes  on  to  comfort  Melanchthon  and  his 
faint-hearted  comrades  in  the  tone  of  the  mystic  :  "  Fear  not ; 
you  are  angels,  nay,  great  angels  or  archangels,  working,  not  for 
us  but  for  the  Church,  nay,  for  God,  Whose  cause  it  is  that  you 
uphold,  as  even  the  very  gates  of  hell  must  admit  ;  these,  though 
they  may  indeed  block  our  way,  cannot  overcome  us,  because 
at  the  very  beginning  of  the  world  the  hostile,  snarling  dragon 
was  overthrown  by  the  Lion  of  the  tribe  of  Juda."3 

The  hostility  of  the  Papists  to  Lutheranism,  had,  so 
Luther  thought,  been  manifestly  punished  by  Heaven  in 
the  defeat  of  Henry  of  Brunswick  ;  it  had  "  already  been 
foretold  in  the  prophecies  pronounced  against  him,"  which 
had  forecasted  his  destruction  as  the  "  son  of  perdition  "  ; 
he  was  a  "  warning  example  set  up  by  God  for  the  tyrants 

1  Lauterbach,  "  Tagebuch,"  p.  156. 

2  To  Melanchthon,  April  20,  1541,  "  Briefe,"  5,  p.  346  ;  "  Brief- 
wechsel,"  13,  p.  308. 

3  To  Melanchthon,  March  24,  1541,  ib.,  p.  336  =  279. 


of  our  days  "  ;  for  every  contemner  of  the  Word  is  "  plainly 
a  tyrant."1 

Luther  was  very  suspicious  of  Melanchthon,  Bucer  and 
others  who  leaned  towards  the  Zwinglian  doctrine  on  the 
Supper.  So  much  had  Magister  Philippus,  his  one-time 
right-hand  man,  to  feel  his  displeasure  and  irritability  that 
the  latter  bewails  his  lot  of  having  to  dwell  as  it  were  "  in 
the  very  den  of  the  Cyclopes  "  and  with  a  real  "  tyrant." 
"  There  is  much  in  one's  intercourse  with  Luther,"  so 
Cruciger  said  confidentially,  in  1545,  in  a  letter  to  Veit 
Dietrich,  "that  repels  those  who  have  a  will  of  their  own 
and  attach  some  importance  to  their  own  judgment ;  if 
only  he  would  not,  through  listening  to  the  gossip  of  out- 
siders, take  fire  so  quickly,  chiding  those  who  are  blameless 
and  breaking  out  into  fits  of  temper  ;  this,  often  enough, 
does  harm  even  in  matters  of  great  moment."2  Luther 
himself  was  by  no  means  unwilling  to  admit  his  faults  in 
this  direction  and  endeavoured  to  make  up  for  them  by 
occasionally  praising  his  fellow-workers  in  fulsome  terms  ; 
Yet  so  deep-seated  was  his  suspicion  of  Melanchthon's 
orthodoxy,  that  he  even  thought  for  a  while  of  embodying 
his  doctrine  on  the  Sacrament  in  a  formulary,  which  should 
condemn  all  his  opponents  and  which  all  his  friends,  par- 
ticularly those  whom  he  had  reason  to  mistrust,  should  be 
compelled  to  sign.  This,  according  to  Bucer,  would  have 
involved  the  departure  of  Melanchthon  into  exile.  Bucer 
expressed  his  indignation  at  this  projected  "  abominable 
condemnation  "  and  at  the  treatment  meted  out  to  Melanch- 
thon by  Luther.3 

Bucer  himself  was  several  times  the  object  of  Luther's 
wrath,  for  instance,  for  his  part  in  the  "  Cologne  Book  of 
Reform  "  :  "  It  is  nothing  but  a  lot  of  twaddle  in  which  I 
clearly  detect  the  influence  of  that  chatterbox  Bucer."4 
When  Jakob  Schenk  arrived  at  Wittenberg  after  a  long 
absence  Luther  was  so  angry  with  him  for  not  sharing  his 
views  as  to  refuse  to  receive  him  when  he  called  ;    he  did 

1  To  Jakob  Probst,  Pastor  at  Bremen,  Oct.  9,  1542,  "  Briefe,"  5, 
p.  501. 

2  On  Feb.  23,  1545,  see  Dollinger,  "Reformation,"  3,  p.  269,  n.  208, 
from  MS. 

3  Cp.  Kostlin-Kawerau,  2,  p.  582.  On  Melanchthon,  cp.  above, 
vol.  hi.,  p.  370. 

4  To  Chancellor  Briick,  1544,  "  Briefe,"  5,  p.  708. 


the  same  in  the  case  of  Agricola,  in  spite  of  the  fact  that  the 
latter  brought  a  letter  of  recommendation  from  the  Margrave 
of  Brandenburg  ;  in  one  of  his  letters  calls  him  :  "  the  worst 
of  hypocrites,  an  impenitent  man  !  "x  From  such  a  monster, 
so  he  said,  he  would  take  nothing  but  a  sentence  of  con- 
demnation. As  for  his  former  friend  Schenk,  he  ironically 
offers  him  to  Bishop  Amsdorf  as  a  helper  in  the  ministry. 
On  both  of  them  he  persisted  in  bestowing  his  old  favourite 
nicknames,  Jeckel  and  Grickel  (Jakob  and  Agricola). 

Luther's  Single-handed  Struggle  with  the  Powers  of  Evil 

Owing  to  the  theological  opinions  reached  by  some  of  his 
one-time  friends  Luther,  as  may  well  be  understood,  began  to 
be  oppressed  by  a  feeling  of  lonesome ness. 

The  devil,  whom  he  at  least  suspected  of  being  the  cause 
of  his  bodily  pains, 2  is  now  backing  the  Popish  teachers,  and 
making  him  to  be  slighted.  But,  by  so  doing,  thanks  to 
Luther's  perseverance  and  bold  defiance,  he  will  only 
succeed  in  magnifying  Christ  the  more. 

"  He  hopes  to  get  the  better  of  us  or  to  make  us  downhearted. 
But,  as  the  Germans  say,  cacabimus  in  os  eius.  Willy-nilly,  he 
shall  suffer  until  his  head  is  crushed,  much  as  he  may,  with 
horrible  gnashing  of  teeth,  threaten  to  devour  us.  We  preach 
the  Seed  of  the  woman  ;  Him  do  we  confess  and  to  Him  would  we 
assign  the  first  place,  wherefore  He  is  with  us."3  In  his  painful 
loneliness  he  praises  "  the  heavenly  Father  Who  has  hidden  these 
things  [Luther's  views  on  religion]  from  the  wise  and  prudent  and 
has  revealed  them  to  babes  and  little  ones  who  cannot  talk,  let 
alone  preach,  and  are  neither  clever  nor  learned."4  This  he  says 
in  a  sermon.  The  clever  doctors,  he  adds,  "  want  to  make  God 
their  pupil ;  everyone  is  anxious  to  be  His  schoolmaster  and 
tutor.  And  so  it  has  ever  been  among  the  heretics.  ...  In  the 
Christian  churches  one  bishop  nags  at  the  other,  and  each  pastor 
snaps  at  his  neighbour.  .  .  .  These  are  the  real  wiselings  of 
whom  Christ  speaks  who  know  a  lot  about  horses'  bowels,  but 
who  do  not  keep  to  the  road  which  God  Himself  has  traced  for 
us,  but  must  always  go  their  own  little  way."  Indeed  it  is  the 
fate  of  "  everything  that  God  has  instituted  to  be  perverted  by 
the  devil,"  by  "  saucy  folk  and  clever  people."  "  The  devil  has 
indeed  smeared  us  well  over  with  fools.     But  they  are  accounted 

1  To  Amsdorf,  May  2,  1545,  ib.,  p.  734. 

2  To  Amsdorf,  Aug.  18,  1543,  ib.,  p.  585  :    "  an  colaphus  Satance  ?  " 

3  To  Anton  Lauterbach,  Nov.  3,  1543,  "  Briefe,"  5,  p.  599. 

4  "  Werke,"  Erl.  ed.,  202,  2,  p.  561  f.,  in  his  last  sermon,  Feb.  14, 
1546,  on  Mt.  xi.  25  ff. 


wise  and  prudent  simply  because  they  rule  and  hold  office  in  the 

Let  us  leave  them  alone  then  and  turn  our  backs  on  them,  no 
matter  how  few  we  be,  for  "  God  will  not  bear  in  His  Christian 
Churches  men  who  twist  His  Divine  Word,  even  though  they 
be  called  Pope,  Emperor,  Kings,  Princes  or  Doctors.  .  .  .  We 
ourselves  have  had  much  to  do  with  such  wiselings,  who  have 
taken  it  upon  themselves  to  bring  about  unity  or  reform."2 
"  They  fancy  that  because  they  are  in  power  they  have  a  deeper 
insight  into  Scripture  than  other  people."3  "The  devil  drives 
such  men  so  that  they  seek  their  own  praise  and  glory  in  Holy 
Scripture."  But  do  you  say  :  I  will  listen  to  a  teacher  "only  so 
long  as  he  leads  me  to  the  Son  of  God,"  the  true  master  and 
preceptor,  i.e.  in  other  words,  so  long  as  he  teaches  the  truth.* 

In  his  confusion  of  mind  Luther  does  not  perceive  to  what 
his  proviso  "  so  long  as  "  amounts.  It  was  practically  the  same 
as  committing  the  decision  concerning  what  was  good  for  salvation 
to  the  hands  of  every  man,  however  ignorant  or  incapable  of 
sound  judgment.  Luther's  real  criterion  remained,  hoVever,  his 
own  opinion.  "  If  anyone  teaches  another  Gospel,"  he  says  in 
this  very  sermon,6  "  contrary  to  that  which  we  have  proclaimed 
to  you,  let  him  be  anathema  "  (cp.  Gal.  i.  8).  The  reason  why 
people  will  not  listen  to  him  is,  as  he  here  tells  them,  because,  by 
means  of  the  filth  of  his  arch -knaves  and  liars,  "  the  devil  in  the 
world  misleads  and  fools  all." 

Luther  was  convinced  that  he  was  the  "  last  trump," 
which  was  to  herald  in  the  destruction,  not  only  of  Satan 
and  the  Papacy,  but  also  of  the  world  itself.  "  We  are  weak 
and  but  indifferent  trumpeters,  but,  to  the  assembly  of  the 
heavenly  spirits,  ours  is  a  mighty  call."  "  They  will  obey  us 
and  our  trump,  and  the  end  of  the  world  will  follow.  Amen."6 

Meanwhile,  however,  he  notes  with  many  misgivings  the 
manifestations  of  the  evil  one.  He  even  intended  to  collect 
in  book  form  the  instances  of  such  awe-inspiring  portents 
("  satance  portenta  ")  and  to  have  them  printed. 

For  this  purpose  he  begged  Jonas  to  send  him  once  more  a 
detailed  account  of  the  case  of  a  certain  Frau  Rauchhaupt,  which 
would  have  come  under  this  category  ;  he  tells  his  friend  that 
the  object  of  his  new  book  is  to  "  startle  "  the  people  who  lull 
themselves  in  such  a  state  of  false  security  that  not  only  do  they 
scorn  the  wholesome  marvels  of  the  Gospel  with  which  we  are 
daily  overwhelmed,  but  actually  make  light  of  the  real  "  furies 
of  furies  "  of  the  wickedness  of  the  world  ;    they  must  read  such 

1  lb.,  p.  562  ff.  2  lb.,  p.  565.  3  lb.,  p.  564. 

4  lb.,  p.  566  f.  *  IbfPt  571 

6  To  Ratzeberger,  the  Elector's  medical  adviser,  Aug.  6,  1545, 
"  Briefe,"  5,  p.  754  :    "  Credo  nos  esse  tubam  illam  novissimam"  etc. 


marvellous  stories,  for  "  they  are  too  prone  to  believe  neither  in 
the  goodness  of  God  nor  in  the  wickedness  of  the  devil,  and  too 
set  on  becoming,  as  indeed  they  are  already,  just  bellies  and 
nothing  more."1 — Thus,  when  Lauterbach  told  him  of  three 
suicides  who  had  ended  their  lives  with  the  halter,  he  at  once 
insisted  that  it  was  really  Satan  who  had  strung  them  up  while 
making  them  to  think  that  it  was  they  themselves  who  committed 
the  crime.  "  The  Prince  of  this  world  is  everywhere  at  work." 
"  God,  in  permitting  such  crimes,  is  causing  the  wrath  of  heaven 
to  play  over  the  world  like  summer  lightning,  that  ungrateful 
men,  who  fling  the  Gospel  to  the  winds,  may  see  what  is  in  store 
for  them."  "  Such  happenings  must  be  brought  to  the  people's 
knowledge  so  that  they  may  learn  to  fear  God."2  Happily  the 
book  that  was  to  have  contained  these  tales  of  horror  never  saw 
the  light ;   the  author's  days  were  numbered. 

The  outward  signs,  whether  in  the  heavens  or  on  the  earth, 
"  whereby  Satan  seeks  to  deceive,"  were  now  scrutinised  by 
Luther  more  superstitiously  than  ever. 

Talking  "at  table  about  a  thunder-clap  which  had  been  heard 
in  winter,  he  quite  agreed  with  Bugenhagen  "  that  it  was  down- 
right Satanic."  "  People,"  he  complains,  "  pay  no  heed  to  the 
portents  of  this  kind  which  occur  without  number."  Melanchthon 
had  an  experience  of  this  sort  before  the  death  of  Franz  von 
Sickingen.  Others,  whom  Luther  mentions,  saw  wonderful 
signs  in  the  heavens  and  armies  at  grips  ;  the  year  before  the 
coming  of  the  Evangel  wonders  were  seen  in  the  stars  ;  "  these  are 
in  every  instance  lying  portents  of  Satan  ;  nothing  certain  is 
foretold  by  them ;  during  the  last  fifteen  years  there  have  been 
many  of  them  ;  the  only  thing  certain  is  that  we  have  to  expect 
the  coming  wrath  of  God."  3  Years  before,  the  signs  in  the  heavens 
and  on  the  earth,  for  instance  the  flood  promised  for  1524,  had 
seemed  to  him  to  forebode  the  "  world  upheaval  "  which  his 
Evangel  would  bring.4 

Luther  shared  to  the  full  the  superstition  of  his  day.  He  did 
not  stand  alone  when  he  thus  interpreted  public  events  and  every- 
day occurrences.  It  was  the  fashion  in  those  days  for  people, 
even  in  Catholic  circles,  superstitiously  to  look  out  for  portents 
and  signs. 

In  15376  Luther  relates  some  far-fetched  tales  of  this  sort. 
The  most  devoted  servants  of  the  devil  are,  according  to  him, 
the  sorcerers  and  witches  of  whom  there  are  many.6     In  1540 

1  To  Jonas  at  Halle,  Jan.  23,  1542,  ib.,  p.  429. 

2  To  Lauterbach,  July  25,  1542,  ib.,  p.  487. 

3  Mathesius,  "  Tischreden,"  p.  385  f.  (Dec.,  1536). 

4  To  Wenceslaus  Link,  Jan.  14,  1521,  "  Brief wechsel,"  3,  p.  72  : 
"  videns,  rem  tumultuosissimo  tumultu  tumultuantem  ;  forte  hcec  est 
inundatio  ilia  prcedicta  anno  24  futura." 

5  Mathesius,  "  Tischreden,"  p.  423,  concluding  :  "  Videte,  tanta  est 
potentia  Sathance  in  deludendis  sensibus  externis ;  quid  faciei  in 
animabus  ?  " 

6  Cp.  N.  Paulus,  "  Hexenwahn  und  Hexenprozess  vornehmlich  im 
16.  Jahrh.,"  1910,  particularly  pp.  20  f.,  48  ff. 

THE   END   OF  THE   WORLD        241 

he  related  to  his  guests  how  a  schoolmaster  had  summoned  the 
witches  by  means  of  a  horse's  head.1  "  Repeatedly,"  so  he  told 
them  in  that  same  year,  "  they  did  their  best  to  harm  me  and  my 
Katey,  but  God  preserved  us."  On  another  occasion,  after 
telling  some  dreadful  tales  of  sorcery,  he  adds  :  "  The  devil  is 
a  mighty  spirit."  "Did  not  God  and  His  dear  angels  intervene, 
he  would  surely  slay  us  with  those  thunder-clubs  of  his  which 
you  call  thunderbolts."2  In  earlier  days  he  had  told  them,  that, 
Dr.  "  Faust,  who  claimed  the  devil  as  his  brother-in-law,  had 
declared  that  '  if  I,  Martin  Luther,  had  only  shaken  hands  with 
him  he  would  have  destroyed  me  '  ;  but  I  would  not  have  been 
afraid  of  him,  but  would  have  shaken  hands  with  him  in  God's 
name  and  reckoning  on  God's  protection."3 

According  to  him,  most  noteworthy  of  all  were  the  diaboli- 
cal deeds  then  on  the  increase  which  portended  a  mighty 
revulsion  and  a  catastrophe  in  the  world's  history.  Every- 
thing, his  laboured  calculations  on  the  numbers  in  the 
biblical  prophecies  included,  all  point  to  this.  Even  the 
appearance  of  a  new  kind  of  fox  in  1545  seemed  to  him  of 
such  importance  that  he  submitted  the  case  to  an  expert 
huntsman  for  an  opinion.  He  himself  was  unable  to  decide 
what  it  signified,  "  unless  it  be  that  change  in  all  things 
which  we  await  and  for  which  we  pray."4 

The  change  to  which  he  here  and  so  often  elsewhere  refers 
is  the  end  of  the  world. 

2.  Luther's  Fanatical  Expectation  of  the  End  of  the 
World.     His  hopeless  Pessimism 

The  excitement  with  which  Luther  looks  forward  to  the 
approaching  end  of  the  world  affords  a  curious  psychological 
medley  of  joy  and  fear,  hope  and  defiance ;  his  conviction 
reposed  on  a  wrong  reading  of  the  Bible,  on  a  too  high 
estimate  of  his  own  work,  on  his  sad  experience  of  men  and 
on  his  superstitious  observance  of  certain  events  of  the 
outside  world. 

The  fact  that  the  end  of  all  was  nigh  gradually  became 
an  absolute  certainty  with  him.  In  his  latter  days  it  grew 
into  one  of  those  ideas  around  which,  as  around  so  many 

1  Mathesius,  "  Tischreden,"  p.  227.  2  76.,  p.  129. 

3  lb.,  p.  422,  from  Lauterbach  and  Weller's  Notes  in  the  summer, 

4  To  Amsdorf,  June  3,  1545,  "  Brief e,"  5,  p.  741.  Amsdorf  had  sent 
an  inquiry  "  de  monstro  Mo  vulpium" 

v.— B, 

242         LUTHER  THE   REFORMER 

fixed  stars,  his  other  plans,  fancies  and  grounds  for  consola- 
tion revolve.  To  the  depth  of  his  conviction  his  excessive 
credulity  and  that  habit — which  he  shared  with  his  con- 
temporaries— of  reading  things  into  natural  events  con- 
tributed not  a  little. 

A  remarkable  conjunction  of  the  planets  in  1524,1  "  other 
signs  which  have  been  described  elsewhere,  such  as  earthquakes, 
pestilences,  famines  and  wars,"  a  predicted  flood2 — "  all  these 
signs  agree  "3  in  announcing  the  great  day  ;  never  have  "  more 
numerous  and  greater  signs  "  occurred  during  the  whole  course 
of  the  world's  history  to  vouch  for  the  forthcoming  end  of  the 
world.4  "All  the  firmaments  and  courses  of  the  heavens  are 
declining  and  coming  to  an  end  ;  the  Elbe  has  stood  for  a  whole 
year  at  the  same  low  level,  this  also  is  a  portent."5  Such  signs 
invite  us  to  be  watchful.6  Over  and  above  all  this  we  have  the 
"many  gruesome  dreams  of  the  Last  Judgment"  with  which  he 
was  plagued  in  later  years.7 

He  describes  to  his  friends  quite  confidently  the  manner  of  the 
coming  of  the  end  such  as  he  pictures  it  to  himself:  "Early  one 
morning,  about  the  time  of  the  spring  equinox,  a  thick  black 
cloud,  three  lightning  flashes  and  a  thunder-clap,  and,  presto, 
everything  will  lie  in  ruins,"  etc.  "  I  am  ever  awaiting  the  day."8 
"  Things  may  go  on  for  some  years  longer,"9  perhaps  for  "  five 
or  six  years,"  but  [no  more,  because  "  the  wickedness  of  men 
has  increased  so  dreadfully  within  so  short  a  time."10  "  We  shall 
live  to  see  the  day  "  ;  Aggeus  (ii.  7  f.)  says  :  "  Yet  a  little  while 
and  I  will  shake  the  heaven  and  the  earth  "  ;  look  around  you  ; 
"  surely  the  State  is  being  shaken  .  .  .  the  household  too,  and 
even  the  very  mob,  item  our  own  very  sons  and  daughters.  The 
Church  too  totters."11 

"  All  the  great  wonders  have  already  taken  place  ;  the  Pope 
has  been  unmasked  ;  the  world  rages.  Nor  will  things  improve 
until  the  Last  Day  comes.  I  hope,  however,  now  that  the  Evangel 
is  so  greatly  despised,  that  the  Last  Day  is  no  longer  far  distant, 
not  more  than  a  hundred  years  off.  God's  Word  will  again 
decline  .  .  .  and  the  world  will  become  quite  savage  and 

1  "  Werke,"  Erl.  ed.,  102,  p.  69  f.    Kirchenpostille.  2  lb. 

3  To  Jonas,  Dec.  16,  1543,  "Briefe,"  5,  p.  612:  "  congruunt  omnia 

4  In  the  "  Chronology  of  the  World,"  "  Werke,"  Walch's  ed.,  14, 
p.  1278,  from  the  Latin  MS.    See  above,  vol.  iii.,  p.  147  f. 

5  Schlaginhaufen,  "  Aufzeichn.,"  p.  22.  6  lb.,  p.  33. 

7  "  Colloq.,"  ed.  Bindseil,  1,  p.  86. 

8  Mathesius,  "  Tischreden,"  p.  208  ;  "  Historien,"  p.  143.  "  Luthers 
Werke,"  Erl.  ed.,  62,  pp.  18,  25,  "  Tischreden." 

9  "  Colloq.,"  ed.  Bindseil,  1.,  p.  85. 

10  "  Werke,"  Erl.  ed.,  58,  p.  206. 

11  lb.,  62,  p.  23.  12  lb.,  p.  24  f. 

THE  END   OF  THE   WORLD         243 

Reason  and  Ground  of  Luther's  Conviction  of  the  near 
End  of  the  World 

The  actual  origin  and  basis  of  this  strange  idea  are  plainly 
expressed  in  the  statement  last  quoted  :  "  The  Pope  is 
unmasked  "  as  Antichrist,  such  was  Luther's  starting-point. 
Further,  "  the  Evangel  is  despised,"  by  his  own  followers 
no  less  than  by  his  foes  ;  this  depressing  sight,  together  with 
the  sad  outlook  for  religion  generally,  formed  the  ground  on 
which  Luther's  conviction  of  the  coming  cataclysm  grew, 
particularly  when  the  fall  of  the  Papacy  seemed  to  be 
unduly  delayed,  and  its  strength  to  be  even  on  the  increase. 
The  Bible  texts  which  he  twists  into  his  service  are  an  out- 
come rather  than  the  cause  of  his  conviction  concerning 
Antichrist,  while  the  "  signs  "  in  the  heavens  and  on  earth 
also  serve  merely  to  confirm  a  persuasion  derived  from 

The  starting-point  of  the  idea  and  the  soil  on  which  it 
grew  deserve  to  be  considered  separately. 

Luther's  views  on  the  unmasking  of  Antichrist  and  the 
approaching  end  of  the  world  carry  us  back  to  the  early 
years  of  his  career.  Soon  after  beginning  his  attack  on  the 
Church,  he,  over  and  over  again,  declared  that  he  had  been 
called  to  reveal  the  Pope  as  Antichrist.1  His  breach  with 
the  ecclesiastical  past  was  so  far-reaching  that  he  could  not 
have  expressed  his  position  and  indicated  the  full  extent  of 
his  aims  better  than  by  so  radical  an  apocalyptic  announce- 
ment. Nor  did  it  sound  so  entirely  strange  to  the  world. 
Even  according  to  Wiclif  the  Papal  power  was  the  power  of 
"  Antichrist  "  and  the  Roman  Church  the  "  Synagogue  of 
Satan "  ;  John  Hus  likewise  taught,  that  it  was  Anti- 
christ who,  by  means  of  the  Papal  penalties,  was  seeking  to 
affright  those  who  were  after  "unmasking"  him. 

The  idea  of  Antichrist  in  Luther's  mind  embodied  all  the 
wickedness  of  the  Roman  Church  which  it  was  his  purpose 
to  unmask,  all  the  religious  perversion  of  which  he  wished  to 
make  an  end,  and,  in  a  word,  the  dominion  of  the  devil 
against  which  he  fancied  he  was  to  proclaim  the  last  and 
decisive  combat.    When,  by  dint  of  insisting  in  his  writings, 

1  See  above,  vol.  iii.,  p.  141  ff.,  on  the  rise  of  his  idea  of  the  Pope 
as  Antichrist. 


over  and  over  again,  and  in  the  most  drastic  of  ways,  on  the 
Papal  Antichrist,  the  idea  came  to  assume  its  definitive  shape 
in  his  own  mind,  his  announcement  of  the  end  of  the  world 
could  not  be  any  longer  delayed  ;  for,  according  to  the 
generally  accepted  view,  Antichrist  was  directly  to  precede 
the  coming  of  Christ  to  Judgment,  or  at  least  the  latter's 
coming  would  not  be  long  delayed  after  the  revelation  of 
Antichrist  in  his  true  colours.1  As  a  rule  Antichrist  was 
taken  to  be  a  person  ;  Luther,  however,  saw  Antichrist  in 
the  Papacy  as  a  whole.  Antichrist  had  had  a  long  spell  of 
life  ;  the  last  Pope  would,  however,  soon  fall,  he,  Luther, 
with  Christ's  help,  was  preparing  his  overthrow,  then  the  end 
would  come — such  is  the  sum  of  Luther's  eschatological 
statements  during  the  first  period  of  his  career. 

Speaking  of  the  end  of  the  world  he  often  says,  that  the  fall 
of  the  Papacy  involves  it.  "  Assuredly,"  he  says,  the  end  will 
shortly  follow  on  account  of  the  manifest  wickedness  of  the  Pope 
and  the  Papists.  According  to  him,  the  Bible  itself  teaches  that, 
"  after  the  downfall  of  the  Pope  and  the  deliverance  of  the  poor, 
no  one  on  earth  would  ever  again  be  a  tyrant  and  inspire  fear." 
"  This  would  not  be  possible,"  so  Luther  thinks,  "  were  the  world 
to  go  on  after  the  fall  of  the  Pope,  for  the  world  cannot  exist 
without  tyrants.  And  thus  the  Prophet  agrees  with  the  Apostle, 
viz.  that  Christ,  when  He  conies,  will  upset  the  Holy  Roman 
Chair.     God  grant  it  may  happen  speedily.     Amen  !  "2 

In  his  fantastic  interpretation  of  the  Monk-Calf  he  declares 
in  a  similar  way,  that  the  near  end  of  the  world  is  certain  in  view 
of  the  abominations  of  the  sinking  Papacy  and  its  monkish 
system,  which  last  is  symbolised  in  the  wonderful  calf  :  "  My 
wish  and  hope  are  that  it  may  mean  the  Last  Day,  since  many 
signs  have  so  far  coincided,  and  the  whole  world  is  as  it  were  in 
an  uproar,"3  the  source  of  the  whole  to-do  being  his  triumphant 
contest  with  Antichrist.  In  the  same  way  his  conviction  of  the 
magnitude  and  success  of  his  mission  against  the  foe  of  Christ 
gives  the  key  to  his  curious  reading  of  Daniel  and  the  Epistle 
to  the  Thessalonians  with  regard  to  the  time  of  Antichrist's 
advent  and  the  end  of  the  world,  which  we  find  set  forth  quite 
seriously  in  his  reply  to  Catharinus.4  In  short,  "  Antichrist  will 
be  revealed  whatever  the  world  may  do  ;  after  this  Christ  must 
come  with  His  Judgment  Day."6 

1  Cp.  the  index  to  Walch's  edition,  vol.  xxiii.,  s.v.  "  Antichrist  "  and 
"  Widerchrist." 

2  "  Werke,"  Weim.  ed.,  8,  p.  719  ;  Erl.  ed.,  242,  p.  203,  "  Bulla 
Coenae  Domini"  (1522),  appendix. 

3  Cp.  Kostlin-Kawerau,  1,  p.  646.  On  the  Monk-Calf,  see  vol.  iii., 
p.  149  f.  4  On  this  Reply  see  vol.  iii.,  p.  142. 

5  Schlaginhaufen,  "  Aufzeichn.,"  p.  72. 

THE   END   OF  THE  WORLD         245 

When  the  Papacy,  instead  of  collapsing,  began  to  gather 
strength  and  even  proceeded  to  summon  a  Council,  Luther 
did  not  cease  foretelling  its  fall ;  he  predicts  the  end  of  the 
world  in  terms  even  stronger  than  before,  though  the  reason 
he  assigns  for  his  forebodings  is  more  and  more  the  "  con- 
tempt shown  for  the  Word,"  i.e.  for  his  teaching  and 
exhortations.  Disgust,  disappointment  and  the  gloomy 
outlook  for  the  future  of  his  work  are  now  his  chief  grounds 
for  expecting  the  end  of  all  and  for  ardently  hoping  that  the 
Day  will  soon  dawn.  ...  It  is  the  self-seeking  and  vice  so 
prevalent  in  his  own  fold  which  wrings  from  him  the  exclama- 
tion :  "It  must  soon  come  to  a  head,"1  for  things  cannot 
long  go  on  thus. 

The  last  temptation  which  shall  assail  the  faithful,  he  says, 
will  be  "an  undisciplined  life  "  ;  then  we  shall  "  grow  sick  of 
the  Word  and  disgusted  with  it."  "  Not  even  the  Word  of  God 
will  they  endure  ;  .  .  .  the  Gospel  which  they  [his  own  people] 
once  confessed,  they  now  look  upon  as  merely  the  word  of  man." 
"  Do  you  fancy  you  are  out  of  the  world,  or  that  Satan,  the 
Prince  of  this  world,  has  died  or  been  crucified  in  you  ?  "2  It  is 
bitter  experience  that  causes  him  to  say  :  "  The  day  will  dawn 
when  Christ  shall  come  to  free  us  from  sin  and  death."3  "  May 
the  world  go  to  rack  and  ruin  and  be  utterly  blotted  out,"  "the 
world  which  has  shown  me  such  gratitude  during  my  own  life- 
time !  "4  "May  the  Lord  call  me  away,  for  I  have  done,  and 
seen,  and  suffered  enough  evil."5  "  Would  that  the  Lord  would 
put  an  end  to  the  great  misery  [that  among  us  each  one  does  as 
he  pleases]  !  Oh  that  the  day  of  our  deliverance  would  come  !  "6 
"  The  people  have  waxed  cold  towards  the  Evangel.  .  .  .  May 
Christ  mend  all  things  and  hasten  the  Day  of  His  Coming."7 

"  It  is  a  wonder  to  me  what  the  world  does  to-day,"  he  said, 
alluding  to  the  turmoil  in  the  newly  acquired  bishopric  of  Naum- 
burg  ;  he  then  goes  on  to  complain  in  the  words  already  given 
(p.  233),  that  a  new  world  is  growing  up  around  him  ;  no  one 
will  admit  of  having  done  wrong,  of  having  lied  or  sinned  ;  those 
only  who  meet  with  injustice  are  reputed  unrighteous,  liars  and 
sinners.  Verily  it  would  soon  rain  filth.  "  The  day  of  our  re- 
demption draweth  nigh.     Amen."     "  The  world  will  rage,  but 

1  To  Jonas,  Dec.  16,  1543,  "  Briefe,"  5,  p.  612. 

2  To  Link,  Sep.  8,  1541,  ib.,  p.  398. 

3  To  Jonas,  March  13,  1542,  ib.,  p.  445. 

4  To  Jonas,  Feb.  25,  1542,  ib.,  p.  439. 

5  To  Jonas,  May  3,  1541,  "  Brief wechsel,"  13,  p.  328  :  "  Ego  et 
cegrotus  et  pcene  morosus  sum,  tcedio  return  et  morborum.  Utinam  me 
Deus  evocet  misericorditer  ad     Satis  malorum  feci,  vidi,  passus  sum." 

9  To  Lauterbach,  April  2,  1543,  "  Briefe,"  5,  p.  551  :  "  ubique 
grassatur  licentia  et  petulantia  vulgi."    Cp.  p.  552. 

7  To  the  Evangelical  Brethren  at  Venice,  June  13,  1543,  ib.,  p.  569. 


good-bye  to  it"  !x — "The  world  is  indeed  a  contemptible  thing," 
he  groans,  after  describing  the  morals  of  Wittenberg.2 

The  conduct  of  the  great  ones  at  the  Saxon  Court  led  him  to 
surmise  that  "  soon,"  after  but  a  few  days,  hell  would  be  their 
portion.3  For  those  who  infringe  the  rights  of  his  Church  he  has 
a  similar  sentence  ready  :  "  Hell  will  be  your  share.  Come, 
Lord  Jesus,  come,  listen  to  the  groaning  of  Thy  people,  and 
hasten  Thy  conning  !  " — "  Farewell  and  teach  your  people  to 
pray  for  the  day  of  the  Lord  ;  for  of  better  times  there  is  no 
longer  any  hope."4 

"  During  our  lifetime,"  he  laments  in  1545,  "  and  under  our 
very  eyes,  we  see  sects  and  dissensions  arising,  each  one  wishing 
to  follow  his  own  fancy.  In  short,  contempt  for  the  Word  on  our 
own  side  and  blasphemy  on  the  other  seem  to  me  to  announce 
the  times  of  which  John  the  Baptist  spoke  to  the  people,  saying  : 
'  The  axe  is  laid  to  the  root  of  the  tree,'  etc.  Accordingly,  since 
the  end  at  least  of  this  happy  age  is  imminent,  there  seems  no 
call  to  bother  much  about  setting  up,  or  coming  to  an  under- 
standing regarding,  those  troublesome  ceremonies."6 

In  fact,  he  is  determined  not  "  to  bother  much,"  not 
merely  about  the  "  ceremonies,"  but  about  the  whole 
question  of  Church  organisation,  for  of  what  use  doing  so 
when  the  signs  of  the  general  end  of  all  are  increasing  at 
such  a  rate  ?  "To  set  up  laws  "  is,  according  to  him,  quite 
impracticable  ;  let  everything  settle  itself  "  according  to  the 
law  of  God  by  means  of  the  inspection."6 

"  To  Luther  the  end  which  Christ  was  about  to  put  to 
this  wicked  world  seemed  so  near,"  so  we  read  in  Kostlin- 
Kawerau's  biography,7  "  that  he  never  contemplated  any 
progressive  development  and  expansion  of  Christendom  and 
the  Church,  nor  was  he  at  all  anxious  about  the  possible  ups 
and  downs  which  might  accompany  such  development.  .  .  . 
It  is  just  in  his  later  years  that  we  find  him  more  firmly 
established  than  ever  in  the  belief,  that  the  world  will  always 
remain  the  world  and  that  it  must  be  left  to  the  Lord  to 
take  what  course  He  pleases  with  it  and  with  His  Christen- 
dom, until  the  coming  of  the  '  longed-for  Last  Day.'  ' 

At  any  rate,  since  the  sectarians  in  his  own  camp  and  the 
various  centrifugal  forces  inherent  in  his  creation  made 
impossible  any  real  organisation,  he  was  all  the  more  ready 

1  To  Amsdorf,  Aug.  18,  1543,  ib.,  p.  584. 

2  To  Jonas,  June  18,  1543,  ib.,  p.  570. 

8  To  Lauterbach,  Nov.  3,  1543,  ib.,  p.  599. 

4  To  Jonas,  Dec.  16,  1543,  ib.,  p.  610. 

5  To  Duke  George  of  Anhalt,  July  10,  1545,  ib.,  6,  p.  370.     6  Ib. 
i  Vol.  ii„  p.  522. 

THE  END   OF  THE  WORLD        247 

to  welcome  the  thought  of  the  end  of  the  world  in  that  it 
distracted  his  mind  from  the  sad  state  of  things. 

On  the  top  of  the  schisms  and  immorality  of  the  people 
there  was  also  the  avarice  of  those  in  high  places,  which 
roused  his  hatred  and  contributed  to  make  him  sigh  for  the 
coming  of  the  Day. 

1  "  They  all  rage  against  God  and  His  Messias."  "  This  is  the 
work  of  those  centaurs,  the  foes  of  the  Church,  kept  in  store  for 
the  latter  days.  They  are  more  insatiable  than  hell  itself.  But 
Christ,  Who  will  shortly  come  in  His  glory,  will  quiet  them,  not 
indeed  with  gold,  but  with  brimstone  and  flames  of  hell,  and  with 
the  wrath  of  God."1  It  was  his  displeasure  against  some  of  the 
authorities  which  wrung  from  him  the  words  :  "  But  the  end  is 
close  at  hand,"  the  end  which  will  also  spell  the  end  of  "  all  this 
seizing — or  rather  thieving  greed  for  Church  property — of  the 
Princes,  nobles  and  magistrates,  hateful  and  execrable  that  it  is."2 
Taking  this  in  conjunction  with  the  attitude  of  the  Catholic 
rulers  he  could  say  with  greater  confidence  than  ever  :  "  Nothing 
good  is  to  be  hoped  for  any  more  but  this  alone,  that  the  day  of 
the  glory  of  our  great  God  and  our  Redeemer  may  speedily 
break  upon  us."  "  From  so  Satanic  a  world  "  he  would  fain  be 
"  quickly  snatched,"  longing  as  he  does  for  the  Day  and  for  the 
"  end  of  Satan's  raging."3 

The  End  of  the  World  in  the  Table-Talk 

In  the  above  we  have  drawn  on  Luther's  letters.  If  we 
turn  to  his  Table-Talk,  particularly  to  that  dating  from  his 
later  years,  we  find  that  there,  too,  his  frequent  allusions  to 
the  approaching  end  of  the  world  are  as  a  rule  connected 
with  his  experience  of  the  corruption  in  his  surroundings, 
especially  at  Wittenberg.  The  carelessness  of  the  young  is 
sufficient  to  make  him  long  for  the  Last  Day,  which  alone 
seemed  to  promise  any  help. 

To  Melanchthon,  who,  with  much  concern,  had  drawn  his 
attention  to  the  lawlessness  of  the  students,  Luther  poured  out 
his  soul,  as  we  read  in  Lauterbach's  Diary  :  As  the  students  were 
growing  daily  wilder  he  hoped  that,  "if  God  wills,  the  Last  Day 
be  not  far  off,  the  Day  which  shall  put  an  end  to  all  things."4 
"  The  ingratitude  and  profanity  of  the  world,"  he  also  says, 
"  makes  me  apprehend  that  this  light  [of  the  Evangel]  will  not 
last  long."     "  The  refinement  of  malice,  thanklessness  and  dis- 

1  To  Lauterbach,  Feb.  9,  1544,  "  Briefe,"  5,  p.  629. 

2  To  Amsdorf,  June  23,  1544,  ib.,  p.  670. 

3  To  Probst,  Dec.  5,  1544,  ib.,  p.  703. 

4  Lauterbach,  "  Tagebuch  "  (1538),  p.  34. 

248         LUTHER  THE  REFORMER 

respect  shown  towards  the  Gospel  now  revealed  "  is  so  great 
"  that  the  Last  Day  cannot  be  far  off."1 

In  his  Table-Talk,  where  Luther  is  naturally  more  communi- 
cative than  in  his  letters,  we  see  even  more  plainly  how  deeply 
the  idea  of  the  approaching  Day  of  Judgment  had  sunk  into  his 
mind  and  under  how  curious  a  shape  it  there  abides.  "  Things 
will  get  so  bad  on  this  earth,"  he  says,  for  instance,  "  that  men 
will  cry  out  everywhere  :  O  God,  come  with  Thy  Last  Judgment." 
He  would  not  mind  "  eating  the  agate  Paternoster  "  (a  string  of 
beads  he  wore  round  his  neck)  if  only  that  would  make  the  Day 
"come  on  the  morrow."2  "The  end  is  at  the  door,"  he  con- 
tinues, "  the  world  is  on  the  lees  ;  if  anyone  wants  to  begin 
something  let  him  hurry  up  and  make  a  start."3  "The  next 
day  he  again  spoke  much  of  the  end  of  the  world,  having  had 
many  evil  dreams  of  the  Last  Judgment  during  the  previous  six 
months  "  ;  it  was  imminent,  for  Scripture  said  so  ;  the  present 
hangs  like  a  ripe  apple  on  the  tree  ;  the  Roman  Empire,  "  the 
last  sweet-william"  would  also  soon  tumble  to  the  ground.4 

In  1530  Luther  was  disposed  to  regard  the  Roman  Empire 
under  Charles  V  with  a  rather  more  favourable  eye.  His  im- 
pression then  was  that  the  Empire,  "  under  our  Emperor  Carol, 
is  beginning  to  look  up  and  becoming  more  powerful  than  it  was 
for  many  a  year  "  ;  yet  strange  to  say  he  knew  how  to  bring 
even  this  fact  into  connection  with  the  Judgment  Day  ;  for  this 
strengthening  of  the  Empire  "  seems  to  me,"  so  he  goes  on,  "  like 
a  sort  of  last  effort ;  for  when  a  light  or  wisp  of  straw  has  burnt 
down  and  is  about  to  go  out  it  sends  up  a  name  and  seems  just 
about  to  flare  up  bravely  when  suddenly  it  dies  out  ;  this  is 
what  Christendom  is  now  doing  thanks  to  the  bright  Evangel."6 
Hence  all  he  could  see  was  the  last  flicker  both  of  the  Empire  and 
of  the  new  teaching  before  final  extinction. 

The  noteworthy  utterance  about  the  last  flicker  of  the  Lutheran 
Evangel  occurs  also  in  the  Table-Talk  collected  by  Mathesius 
dating  from  the  years  1542  and  1543.  "  I  believe  that  the  Last 
Day  is  not  far  off.  The  reason  is  that  we  now  see  the  last  effort 
of  the  Evangel ;  this  resembles  a  light ;  when  a  light  is  about  to 
expire  it  sends  up  at  the  last  a  sudden  flame  as  though  it  were 
going  to  burn  for  quite  a  long  while  and  thereupon  goes  out. 
And,  though  it  appears  now  as  though  the  Evangel  were  about 
to  be  spread  abroad,  I  fear  it  will  suddenly  expire  and  the  Last 
Day  come.  It  is  the  same  with  a  sick  man  ;  when  at  the  point 
of  death  he  seems  quite  cheerful  and  on  the  high  road  to  recovery, 
and,  then,  suddenly,  he  is  gone."6 

The  Table-Talk  from  the  Mathesius  collection  recently  pub- 

1  P.  172  f. 

2  Schlaginhaufen,  "  Aufzeichn.,"  (1531  and  1532),  p.  17. 

3  "  Colloq.,"  ed.  Bindseil,  1,  pp.  85,  86. 

4  76.,  p.  86. 

5  "  Werke,"  Erl.  ed.,  41,  p.  233. 

6  Mathesius,  "  Tischreden,"  ed.  Kroker,  p.  282.  Cp.  Mathesius, 
"  Aufzeichn.,"  ed.  Lcesche,  p.  393. 

THE  END   OF  THE  WORLD        249 

lished  by  Kroker,  among  other  curious  utterances  of  Luther's 
on  the  end  of  the  world,  contains  also  the  following  : 

In  view  of  the  dissensions  by  which  the  new  Evangel  was  torn 
the  speaker  says,  in  1542-43:  "If  the  world  goes  on  for  another 
fifty  years  things  will  become  worse  than  ever,  for  sects  will 
arise  which  still  lie  hidden  in  the  hearts  of  men,  so  that  we  shall 
not  know  where  we  stand.  Hence,  dear  Lord,  come  !  Come  and 
overwhelm  them  with  Thy  Judgment  Day,  for  no  improvement 
is  any  longer  to  be  looked  for."1 

Here  too  he  repeatedly  declares  that  he  himself  is  tired  of  the 
world  :  "I  have  had  enough  of  the  world,"  he  says,  and  goes  on 
to  introduce  the  ugly  comparison  alluded  to  above. 2  He  adds : 
"The  world  fancies  that  if  only  it  were  rid  of  me  all  would  be 
well."  He  is  saddened  to  see  that  many  of  his  followers  make 
little  account  of  him  :  "If  the  Princes  and  gentry  won't  do  it, 
then  things  will  not  last  long."3  Of  the  want  of  respect  shown  to 
his  preachers  he  says  :  "  Where  there  is  such  contempt  of  the 
Divine  Word  and  of  the  preachers,  shall  not  God  smite  with  His 
fist  ?  "  "  But  if  we  preachers  were  to  meet  and  agree  amongst 
ourselves,  as  has  been  done  in  the  Papacy,  there  would  be  less 
need  for  this.  The  worst  of  it  is  that  they  are  not  at  one 
even  amongst  themselves."  He  finds  a  makeshift  consolation 
for  the  divergency  in  teaching  in  the  thought  that  "  so  it  always 
was  even  from  the  beginning  of  the  world,  preachers  always  having 
disagreed  amongst  themselves."  "There  is  a  bad  time  coming, 
look  you  to  it  "  ;  things  may  go  on  for  another  fifty  years  now 
that  the  young  have  been  brought  up  in  his  doctrine,  but,  after 
that,  "  let  them  look  out.  Hence,  let  no  one  fear  the  plague,  but 
rather  be  glad  to  die."4  Not  only  did  he  look  forward  to  his  own 
death,  but,  as  we  know,  to  that  of  "  all  his  children,"  seeing  that 
strange  things  would  happen  in  the  world. 5 

We  have  heard  him  say,  that  it  was  a  mercy  for  the  young, 
that,  being  thoughtless  and  without  experience,  they  did  not  see 
the  harm  caused  by  the  scandals,  "  else  they  could  not  endure 
to  live."6  And,  that  the  world  could  "  not  possibly  last  long." 
Its  hours  are  numbered,  for,  thanks  to  me,  "  everything  has  now 
been  put  straight.     The  Gospel  has  been  revealed."7 

"  Christ  said,  that,  at  His  coming,  faith  would  be  hard  to  find 
on  the  earth  (Luke  xviii.  8).  That  is  true,  for  the  whole  of  Asia 
and  Africa  is  without  the  Evangel,  and  even  as  regards  Europe 
no  Gospel  is  preached  in  Greece,  Italy,  Hungary,  Spain,  France, 
England  or  Poland.  The  one  little  bright  spot,  the  house  of 
Saxony,  will  not  hinder  the  coming  of  the  Last  Day."8 

"  Praise  be  to  God  Who  has  taught  us  to  sigh  after  it  and  long 
for  it  !    In  Popery  everybody  dreads  it."9 

"  Amen,  so  be  it,  Amen  !  "  so  he  sighed  in  1543  in  a  letter  to 

1  Mathesius,  "  Tischreden,"  p.  287. 

3  Lauterbach,  "  Tagebuch,"  p.  131. 

4  Mathesius,  "  Tischreden,"  p.  289.  6  lb.,  p.  288. 
6  lb.,  p.  179.             7  lb.,  p.  108. 

2  Above,  p.  229. 

5  lb.,  p.  288. 
6  lb.,  p.  179.  7  lb.,  p.  108.  8  lb.,  p.  209. 

9  16.,  p.  111. 


Amsdorf  alluding  to  the  end  of  the  world.  "  The  world  was  just 
like  this  before  the  Flood,  before  the  Babylonian  captivity,  before 
the  destruction  of  Jerusalem,  before  the  devastation  of  Rome 
and  before  the  misfortunes  of  Greece  and  Hungary  ;  so  it  will 
be  and  so  it  is  before  the  ruin  of  Germany  too.  They  refuse  to 
listen,  so  they  must  be  made  to  feel.  I  should  be  glad  to  console 
ourselves  both,  by  discussing  this  thought  [of  the  contempt  of  the 
Papists  for  us]  with  you  by  word  of  mouth."  "  We  will  leave 
them  in  the  lurch  "  and  cease  from  attempting  their  conversion. 
"  Farewell  in  the  Lord,  Who  is  our  Helper  and  Who  will  help  us 
for  ever  and  ever.     Amen."1 

"  Under  the  Pope,"  we  read  in  the  Colloquies,  "  at  least  the 
name  of  Christ  was  retained,  but  our  thanklessness  and  presump- 
tuous sense  of  security  will  bring  things  to  such  a  pass  that  Christ 
will  be  no  longer  even  named,  and  so  the  words  of  the  Master 
already  quoted  will  be  fulfilled  according  to  which,  at  His  coming, 
no  faith  will  remain  on  the  earth."2 

As  to  the  circumstances  which  should  accompany  the  end  of 
the  world,  he  still  expected  the  catastrophe  to  take  place  most 
likely  about  Easter  time,  "early  in  the  morning,  after  a  thunder- 
storm of  an  hour  or  perhaps  a  little  more."3 

Here  he  no  longer  gives  the  world  "  a  bare  hundred  years 
more,"  nor  even  something  "  not  more  than  fifty  years  "  ;4  he 
almost  expects  the  end  to  come  before  the  completion  of  his 
translation  of  the  Bible  into  German.5  The  world  will  certainly 
not  last  until  1548,  so  he  declared,  "  for  this  would  run  counter 
to  Ezechiel."6  He  is  not  quite  sure  whether  the  Golden  Age 
begins  in  1540  or  not,  though  such  was  the  contention  of  the 
mathematicians  ;  but  "  we  shall  see  the  fulfilment  of  Scripture,"7 
or  at  any  rate,  as  he  prudently  adds  elsewhere,  our  descendants 
will.  But  before  this  can  come  the  "  great  light  "  of  faith  would 
have  to  be  dimmed  still  more.8 

Luther  concludes  by  saying  that  he  is  unable  to  suggest  any- 
thing further  ;  he  had  done  all  he  could  ;  God's  vengeance  on 
the  world  was  so  great,  he  declares,  that  he  could  no  longer  give 
any  advice  ;  for  "  amongst  us  whom  God  has  treated  so  merci- 
fully and  on  whom  He  has  bestowed  all  His  Graces  there  is 
nothing  left  that  is  not  corrupted  and  perverted."9  "  On  divine 
authority  we  began  to  amend  the  world,  but  it  refuses  to  hearken  ; 
hence  let  it  crumble  to  ruins,  for  such  is  its  fate  !  "  10 

In  his  predictions  concerning  the  end  of  the  world  Luther 
did  not  sufficiently  take  to  heart  the  mishap  which  befell  his 
pupil  and  friend  Michael  Stiefel,  though  he  himself  had  been 

1  To  Amsdorf,  Nov.  7,  1543,  "  Briefe,"  5,  p.  600. 

2  "  Colloq.,"  ed.  Bindseil,  1,  p.  87.  3  lb.,  p.  89. 
4  Lauterbach,  "  Tagebuch,"  p.  172  f. 

6  "  Werke,"  Erl.  ed.,  41,  p.  233. 

6  Schlaginhaufen,  "  Aufzeichn.,"  p.  130. 

7  "  Colloq.,"  ed.  Bindseil,  1,  p.  86.  8  lb.,  p.  87. 

9  "  Werke,"  Erl.  ed.,  57,  p.  95  f.       10  Schlaginhaufen,  ib.,  p.  30. 

THE   END   OF  THE   WORLD         251 

at  pains  to  reprove  him.  Stiefel  had  calculated  that  the 
end  of  the  world  would  come  at  8  a.m.  on  Oct.  19,  1533,  at 
which  hour  he  and  his  parishioners  awaited  it  assembled  in 
the  church  at  Lochau.  Their  watch  was,  however,  in  vain  ; 
the  world  continued  to  go  its  way  and  the  Court  judged  it 
expedient  to  remove  the  preacher  for  a  while  from  his  post. 

Taking  these  eschatological  ideas  or  rather  ardent  wishes 
of  Luther's  later  life  in  all  their  bearings,  and  giving  due 
weight  to  the  almost  unbounded  dominion  they  exercised 
over  his  mind,  one  might  well  incline  to  see  in  them  signs 
of  an  unhealthy  and  overwrought  mind.  They  seem  to  have 
been  due  to  excessive  mental  strain,  to  the  reaction  following 
on  the  labours  of  his  long  life's  struggle  in  the  cause  of  his 
mission.  It  is  not  unlikely  that  pathology  played  some 
part  in  the  depression  from  which  he  suffered. 

His  early  theological  development  also  throws  some  light 
on  the  psychological  problem,  owing  to  a  parallel  which 
it  affords. 

The  middle-point  and  mainstay  of  his  theology,  viz.  his 
doctrine  of  Justification,  was  wholly  a  result  of  his  own  per- 
sonal feelings ;  after  cutting  it,  so  to  speak,  to  his  own  measure 
he  proceeded  to  make  it  something  of  world-wide  application, 
a  doctrine  which  should  rule  every  detail  of  religious  life, 
and  around  which  all  theology  should  cluster  if  it  is  to  be 
properly  understood.  In  a  similar  way,  after  beginning  by 
adapting  to  his  own  case  the  theory  of  the  near  end  of  the 
world — to  which  he  was  early  addicted — he  gradually  came 
to  find  in  it  the  clue  wherewith  to  unravel  all  the  knotty 
problems  which  began  to  present  themselves.  It  became  his 
favourite  plan  to  regard  everything  in  the  light  of  the  end 
of  the  world  and  advent  of  Christ.  Just  as  he  was  fond  of 
asseverating,  in  spite  of  all  the  contradictions  it  involved, 
that  he  could  find  in  his  dogma  of  Justification  endless 
comfort  for  both  himself  and  the  faithful,  so,  too,  he  came 
to  regard  the  Last  Day,  in  spite  of  all  its  terrors,  as  the 
source  of  the  highest,  nay,  of  the  only  remaining,  joy  of  life, 
for  himself  and  for  all.  With  a  vehemence  incompre- 
hensible to  sober  reason  he  allowed  himself  to  be  carried 
away  by  this  idea  as  he  had  been  by  others.  Such  was  his 
temperament  that  he  could  rejoice  in  the  coming  of  the 
Judge,  Who  should  deliver  him  from  the  bonds  of  despair. 

Hence  Luther's  expectation  of  the  end  of  the  world  was 


something  very  different  from  that  of  certain  Saints  of 
whom  Church-history  tells  us.  Pope  Gregory  I  or  Vincent 
Ferrer  were  not  moved  to  foretell  the  approaching  end  of 
the  world  by  disgust  with  life,  by  disappointment,  or  as  a 
result  of  waging  an  unequal  struggle  with  the  Church  of 
their  day,  nor  again  because  they  regarded  the  destruction 
of  the  world  as  the  only  escape  from  the  confusion  they 
had  brought  about.  Nor  do  they  speak  of  the  end  of  the 
world  with  any  fanatical  expectation  of  their  own  personal 
salvation,  but  rather  with  a  mixture  of  fear  and  calm  trust 
in  God's  bounty  to  the  righteous  ;  they  have  none  of 
Luther's  pessimism  concerning  the  world,  and,  far  from 
desiring  things  to  "  take  their  course,"1  they  exerted  every 
nerve  to  ensure  the  everlasting  salvation  of  as  many  of  their 
fellow-creatures  as  possible  before  the  advent  of  the  Judge  ; 
to  this  end  they  had  recourse  to  preaching  and  the  means 
of  grace  provided  by  the  Church  and  insisted  greatly  on  the 
call  for  faith  and  good  works.  Above  all,  they  gave  a  speak- 
ing proof  of  their  faith  by  their  works  and  by  the  inspiring 
example  of  heroic  sanctity. 

3.  Melanchthon  under  the  Double  Burden,  of  Luther's 
Personality  and  his  own  Life's  Work 

The  personality  of  Luther  counts  for  much  among  the 
trials  which  embittered  Melanchthon's  life. 

The  passages  already  quoted  witnessing  thereto2  must 
here  be  supplemented  by  what  he  himself  says  of  his  experi- 
ences at  Luther's  side,  in  a  letter  he  wrote  in  1548  to  the 
councillor  Carlowitz  and  the  Court  of  Saxony.  There  was 
some  doubt  as  to  what  attitude  Melanchthon  would  adopt 
towards  Maurice  of  Saxony,  the  new  sovereign,  the  victor  of 
the  Schmalkalden  War,  and  to  his  demands  in  the  matter 
of  religion. 

In  the  letter,  which  to  say  the  least  is  very  conciliatory, 
Melanchthon  says  that  he  will  know  how  to  keep  silence  on  any 
ecclesiastical  regulations,  no  matter  how  distasteful  to  him  they 
may  be  :  for  he  knew  what  it  was  "  to  endure  even  a  truly 
ignominious  bondage,  Luther  having  frequently  given  the  rein 
to  his  own  natural  disposition,  which  was  not  a  little  quarrelsome, 
instead  of  showing  due  consideration  for  his  own  position  and 
the  general  welfare."     He  goes  on  to  explain  the  nature  of  the 

1  See  above,  p.  226.  2  Above,  vol.  iii.,  p.  362  ft. 


habit  of  silence  he  had  so  thoroughly  mastered  ;  it  meant  no 
sacrifice  of  his  own  doctrine  and  views  ("  non  mutato  genere 
doctrince  ").  For  twenty  long  years,  so  he  complains,  he  had  been 
obliged  to  bear  the  reproaches  of  the  zealots  of  the  party  because 
he  had  toned  down  certain  doctrines  and  had  ventured  to  differ 
from  Luther  ;  they  had  called  him  ice  and  frost,  accused  him  of 
being  in  league  with  the  Papists,  nay,  of  being  ambitious  to  secure 
a  Cardinal's  hat.  Yet  he  had  never  had  the  slightest  inclination 
to  go  over  to  the  Catholics,  for  they  "  were  guilty  of  cruel  injustice." 
He  must,  however,  say  that  he,  who  by  nature  was  a  lover  of 
peace  and  the  quiet  of  the  study,  had  only  been  drawn  into  the 
movement  of  which  Luther  was  the  leader  because  he,  like  many 
wise  and  learned  contemporaries,  thought  he  discerned  in  it  a 
striving  after  that  truth  for  which  he  thirsted  and  for  which  he 
lived.  Luther  it  was  true,  had,  from  the  very  first,  introduced 
a  "  rougher  element  into  the  cause  "  ;  he  himself,  however,  had 
made  it  his  aim  to  set  up  only  what  was  true  and  essentially 
necessary  ;  he  had  also  done  much  in  the  way  of  reforms,  and,  to 
boot,  had  waged  a  war  against  the  demagogues  ("  multa  tribunitia 
plebs  ")  which,  owing  to  the  attacks  of  enemies  at  Court,  had 
drawn  down  on  him  the  displeasure  of  the  sovereign  and  had 
even  put  his  life  in  jeopardy. 

Coming  finally  to  speak  of  the  concessions,  speculative  and  prac- 
tical, which  he  was  prepared  to  make  in  addition  to  preserving 
silence,  he  mentions  "  the  authority  to  be  conceded  to  the  bishops 
and  the  chief  bishop  in  accordance  with  the  Augsburg  Confes- 
sion." He  adds  :  "  Mayhap  I  am  by  nature  of  a  servile  turn  of 
mind  "  ("fortassis  sum  ingenio  servili  "),  but,  after  all  there  is  a  real 
call  to  be  humble  and  open  to  advances.  He  also  refers  to  the 
defeat  of  the  Evangelical  Princes,  but  only  to  assure  Carlowitz 
that  he  attributes  this,  "  not  to  blind  fate,  but  rather  admit  that 
we  have  drawn  down  the  chastisement  on  ourselves  by  many 
and  great  misdeeds."1 

This  is  the  oft-quoted  declaration  which  Protestant  writers  as 
a  whole  regret  more  on  Melanchthon's  than  on  Luther's  account. 
It  was  "  an  unhappy  hour  "  in  which  Melanchthon  wrote  the 
letter  "  which  gives  us  so  profound  an  insight  into  his  soul  "  ;2  he 
forgot  that  he  was  "  a  public  character  "  ;  "in  this  letter  not 
only  what  he  says  of  Luther  and  of  his  relations  with  him,  but 
even  his  account  of  the  share  he  himself  took  in  the  Reformation," 
"  is  scarcely  to  his  credit."3 

Another  Protestant  holds,  however,  a  different  view.  In  this 
letter  we  have,  as  a  matter  of  fact,  "the  expression  of  feelings 
which  for  long  years  Melanchthon  had  most  carefully  kept  under 
restraint  locked  up  in  his  heart.  .  .  .  From  it  we  may  judge  how 
great   was    the   vexation    and   bitterness   Melanchthon   had    to 

1  April  28,  1548,  "  Corp.  ref.,"  6,  p.  879  sqq. 

2  G.  Kawerau,  "  Luthers  Stellung  zu  den  Zeitgenossen  Erasmus, 
Zwingli  und  Melanchthon "  (Reprint  from  "  Deutsch-evang.  BL," 
1906,  1-3),  p.  30. 

3  F.  Loofs,  "  DG.,"  4,  1906,  p.  866,  n.  3. 


endure.  ...  In  an  unguarded  moment  what  had  been  so  long 
pent  up  broke  out  with  elemental  force."  The  historian  we  are 
quoting  then  goes  on  to  plead  for  a  "  milder  sentence,"  especially 
as  "  almost  every  statement  which  occurs  in  the  letter  can  be 
confirmed  from  Melanchthon's  confidential  correspondence  of 
the  previous  twenty  years."1 

Some  of  Melanchthon's  Deliverances 

It  is  quite  true,  that,  in  his  confidential  correspondence, 
Melanchthon  had  long  before  made  allusions  to  the  awkward- 
ness of  his  position. 

He  says,  for  instance,  in  a  letter  to  the  famous  physician 
Leonard  Fuchs,  who  wanted  him  to  take  up  his  abode  at 
Tubingen  :  "  Some  Fate  has,  as  it  were,  bound  me  fast 
against  my  will,  like  hapless  Prometheus,"  bound  to  the 
Caucasian  rock,  of  whom  the  classic  myth  speaks.  Never- 
theless, he  had  not  lost  hope  of  sometime  cutting  himself 
free  ;  happy  indeed  would  he  account  himself  could  he 
find  a  quiet  home  amongst  his  friends  at  Tubingen  where 
he  might  devote  his  last  years  to  study.2 

On  a  later  occasion,  when  bewailing  his  lot,  the  image  of 
Prometheus  again  obtrudes  itself  on  the  scholar.3 

Melanchthon's  uneasiness  and  discontent  with  his  position 
did  not  merely  arise  from  the  mental  oppression  he  experi- 
enced at  Luther's  side  ;  it  was,  as  already  pointed  out,  in 
part  due  to  sundry  other  factors,  such  as  the  persecution 
he  endured  from  disputatious  theologians  within  the  party, 
the  sight  of  the  growing  confusion  which  met  his  eye  day 
by  day,  •  the  public  dangers  and  the  moral  results  of  the 
religious  upheaval,  and,  lastly,  the  depressing  sense  of  being 
out  of  the  element  where  his  learning  and  humanistic 
tastes  might  have  found  full  and  unhampered  scope.  His 
complaints  dwell,  now  on  one,  now  on  some  other  of  these 
trials,  but,  taken  together,  they  combine  to  make  up  a 
tragic  historical  picture  of  a  soul  distraught ;  this  is  all  the 
more  surprising,  since,  owing  to  the  large  share  he  had  in 
the  introduction  of  the  new  Evangel,  the  cheering  side  of  the 

1  G.  Ellinger,  "  Melanchthon,"  1902,  p.  535  f. 

2  Nov.  12,  1538,  "  Corp.  ref.,"  3,  p.  606. 

3  To  Gelous,  May  20,  1559,  ib.,  9,  p.  822  :  "  Pendeo  velut  ad  Gau- 
casum  adfixus,  etsi  verius  sum  eiri/x-qOevs  quam  irpo/j-rfdevs  et  laceror,  non 
ut  Me  vulturibus  tantum,  sed  etiam  a  cuculis." 


great  religious  reform  should  surely  have  been  reflected  in 

"It  is  not  fitting,"  writes  the  Protestant  theologian  Carl 
Sell,  "  to  throw  a  veil  over  the  sad  close  of  Melanchthon's 
life,  for  it  was  but  the  logical  consequence  of  his  own  train 
of  thought."  Luther's  theology,  of  the  defects  of  which 
Melanchthon  was  acutely  conscious,  had,  according  to  Sell, 
"  already  begun  to  break  down  as  an  adequate  theory  of 
life  "  j1  of  the  forthcoming  disintegration  Luther's  colleague 
already  had  a  premonition. 

In  Aug.,  1536,  when  Melanchthon  paid  a  visit  to  his  home  and 
also  to  Tubingen,  he  became  more  closely  acquainted  with  the 
state  of  the  Protestant  Churches,  both  in  the  Palatinate  and  in 
Swabia.  It  was  at  that  time  that  he  wrote  to  his  friend  Myconius  : 
"  Had  you  travelled  with  us  and  seen  the  woeful  devastation  of 
the  Churches  in  many  localities  you  would  undoubtedly  long, 
with  tears  and  groans,  for  the  Princes  and  the  learned  to  take 
steps  for  the  welfare  of  the  Churches.  At  Nuremberg  the  good 
attendance  at  public  worship  and  the  orderly  arrangement  of  the 
ceremonies  pleased  me  greatly  ;  elsewhere,  however,  lack  of 
order  and  general  barbarism  is  wonderfully  estranging  the  people 
[from  religion  ;  '  ara^la  et  barbaries  mirum  in  modum  alienat 
animos '].  Oh,  that  the  authorities  would  see  to  the  remedying 
of  this  evil!  "2 

After  he  had  reluctantly  resumed  the  burden  of  his  Wittenberg 
office  he  continued  to  fret  about  the  dissensions  in  his  own  camp. 
"  Look,"  he  wrote  to  Veit  Dietrich  in  1537,  "  how  great  is  the 
danger  to  which  the  Churches  are  everywhere  exposed  and  how 
difficult  it  is  to  govern  them,  when  those  in  authority  are  at  grips 
with  one  another  and  set  up  strife  and  confusion,  whereas  it  is 
from  them  that  we  should  look  for  help.  .  .  .  What  we  have  to 
endure  is  worse  than  all  the  trials  of  Odysseus  the  sufferer."3 

In  the  following  year  he  told  the  same  friend  the  real  evil  was, 
that  "  we  live  like  gipsies,  no  one  being  willing  to  obey  another 
in  any  single  thing."4 

In  the  name  of  Wittenberg  University  he  wrote  to  Mohr,  the 
Naumburg  preacher,  who  was  quarrelling  with  his  brethren  in 
the  ministry,  "  What  is  to  happen  in  future  if,  for  so  trivial  a 
matter,  such  wild  and  angry  broils  break  out  amongst  those  who 
govern  the  Church  ?  "5 

The  growing  tendency  to  strife  he  describes  in  1544  in  these 
words  :    "  There  are  at  present  many  people  whose  quarrels  are 

1  C.  Sell,  "  Philipp  Melanchthon  und  die  deutsche  Reformation  bis 
1531  "  ("  Schriften  des  Vereins  f.  RG.,"  14,  3,  1897),  p.  117. 

2  Nov.  13,  1536,  "  Corp.  ref.,"  3,  p.  187. 

3  Dec.  7,  1537,  ib.,  p.  460.  4  Feb.  13,  1538,  ib.,  p.  488. 

5  June  24,  1545,  ib.,  5,  p.  776  :  "  tarn  atrocia  certamina  inter 


both  countless  and  endless,  and  who  everywhere  find  a  pretext 
for  them."1 

Many  of  his  complaints  concerning  the  morals  of  the  time,  as 
Dollinger  remarks,  sound  very  much  like  those  of  a  "  sworn 
Catholic  criticising  the  state  of  affairs  brought  about  by  the 
Reformation."  Dollinger  also  calls  attention  to  the  saying  of 
1537  :  "The  only  glory  remaining  in  this  iron  age  is  that  of 
boldly  breaking  down  the  barriers  of  discipline  ('  audacter  dissipare 
vincida  disciplines  ' )  and  of  propounding  to  the  people  new  opinions 
neatly  cut  and  coloured."2  A  similar  dictum  dates  from  1538. 
"  Our  age,  as  you  can  see,  is  full  of  malice  and  madness,  and  more 
addicted  to  intrigue  than  any  previous  one.  The  man  who  is 
most  shameless  in  his  abuse  is  regarded  as  the  best  orator.  Oh, 
that  God  would  change  this  !  "3  The  growing  evils  made  him 
more  and  more  downhearted.  "  People  have  become  barbarians," 
he  exclaims  twelve  years  later  to  his  friend  Camerarius,  "  and, 
accustomed  as  they  are  to  hatred  and  contempt  of  law  and  order, 
fear  lest  any  restraint  be  put  on  their  licentiousness  ('  metuunt 
frenari  licentiam  ').  These  are  the  evils  decreed  for  the  last  age  of 
the  world."4 

Over  and  over  again  we  can  see  how  the  timorous  man  en- 
deavours  to  clear  the  religious  innovations  of  any  responsibility 
for  the  prevalent  lawlessness,  which,  as  he  says,  deserved  to  be 
bewailed  with  floods  of  tears  ;  after  all,  the  true  Church  had  been 
revived  ;  this  edifice,  this  temple  of  God,  still  remained  amidst 
all  the  chaos  ;  even  in  Noe's  day  it  had  been  exposed  to  damage. 5 
At  times,  though  less  frequently  than  Luther,  he  lays  all  the 
blame  on  Satan  ;  the  latter,  by  means  of  the  scandals,  was  seek- 
ing to  scare  people  away  from  the  true  Evangel  now  brought  to 
light,  and  to  vex  the  preachers  into  holding  their  tongues. 

Pessimistic  consideration  of  the  "  last  age  of  the  world  "  was 
quite  in  his  line  ;  the  dark  though  not  altogether  unfriendly 
shadow  of  the  approaching  end  of  all  was  discernible  in  the 
moral  disorders,  in  the  unbelief  and  anti-christian  spirit  of  the 
foe.  He  would  not  dwell,  so  he  once  said,  on  the  state  of  things 
among  the  people  towards  whom  he  was  willing  to  be  indulgent, 
but  it  could  not  be  gainsaid  that,  "  among  the  learned  open  con- 
tempt for  religion  was  on  the  increase  ;  they  lean  either  towards 
the  Epicureans  or  towards  universal  scepticism.  Forgetfulness 
of  God,  the  wickedness  of  the  times,  the  senseless  fury  of  the 
Princes,  all  unite  in  proving  that  the  world  lies  in  the  pains  of 
travail  and  that  the  joyous  coming  of  Christ  is  nigh."6  It  was 
his  hopelessness  and  the  great  solace  he  derived  from  the  approach- 
ing end  of  all  things  that  called  forth  this  frame  of  mind.     It  is 

1  Dec.  25,  1544,  to  Camerarius,  "  Corp.  ref.,"  5,  p.  554. 

2  "  Die  Reformation,"  1,  p.  376. 

3  Oct.  11,  1538,  to  Caspar  Borner,  "  Corp.  ref.,"  3,  p.  596. 

4  April  30,  1550,  ib.,  7,  p.  580. 

5  Cp.  Dollinger,  ib.,  1,  p.  379  f. 

6  From  a  New- Year's  letter  (Jan.  1,  1540)  to  Veit  Dietrich,  "  Corp. 
ref.,"  3,  p.  895. 


also  plain  that  he  saw  no  prospect  of  improvement.  "  In  these 
last  days,"  he  says,  even  a  zealous  preacher  can  no  longer  hope 
for  success,  though  this  does  not  give  him  the  right  to  quit  his 
post.1  The  poetic  reference  to  the  frenzied  old  age  of  the  world 
("  delira  mundi  senecta  ")  is  several  times  met  with  in  his  letters. 

In  1537  he  grumbled  to  Johann  Brenz,  the  preacher,  of 
the  hostility  of  the  theologians,  especially  of  the  Luther- 
zealots  ;  he  had  seen  what  hatred  the  mitigations  he  had 
introduced  in  Luther's  doctrines  had  excited.  "  I  conceal 
everything  beneath  the  cloak  of  my  moderation,  but  what 
shall  I  do  eventually  faced  by  the  rage  of  so  many  ('  in  tanta 
rabie  multorum  ')  ?  "2  "I  seek  for  a  creephole,"  he  con- 
tinues, "  may  God  but  show  me  one,  for  I  am  worn  out 
with  illness,  old  age  and  sorrow." 

Of  Amsdorf  he  learnt  with  pain  that  he  had  warned 
Luther  against  him  as  a  serpent  whom  he  was  warming  in 
his  bosom.3 

Andreas  Osiander  likewise  wrote  of  Melanchthon  to 
Besold  at  Nuremberg,  that,  since  Apostolic  times,  no  more 
mischievous  and  pernicious  man  had  lived  in  the  Church, 
so  skilful  was  he  in  giving  to  his  writings  the  semblance  of 
wholesome  doctrine  while  all  the  time  denying  its  truth. 
"  I  believe  that  Philip  and  those  who  think  like  him  are 
nothing  but  slaves  of  Satan."  On  another  occasion  the 
same  bitter  opponent  of  Melanchthon  inveighs  against  the 
religious  despotism  which  now  replaced  at  Wittenberg  the 
former  Papal  authority,  a  new  tyranny  which  required,  that 
"  all  disputes  should  be  submitted  to  the  elders  of  the 
Church."4 — It  was  men  such  as  these  who  repaid  him  for 
the  labours  he  had  reluctantly  undertaken  on  behalf  of  the 
Church.  Of  their  bitter  opposition  he  wrote,  that,  even 
were  he  to  shed  as  many  tears  as  there  was  water  in  the 
flooded  Elbe,  he  would  still  not  be  able  to  weep  away 
his  grief.5 

1  Sept.  9,  1541,  to  Veit  Dietrich,  ib.,  4,  p.  654,  where  he  continues  : 
"  Tegere  hcec  soleo,  sed,  mihi  crede,  manent  cicatrices." 

2  About  July  16,  1537,  "  Corp.  ref.,"  3,  p.  390  sq.  Before  this  he 
had  said  in  humanistic  style  :  "  Video  novum  quoddam  genus  sophis- 
tarum  nasci  ;  velut  ex  gigantum  sanguine  alii  gigantes  nati  sunt.  .  .  . 
Metuo  maiores  ecclesice  motus.  Hie  cum  hydra  decerto.  Uno  represso 
alii  multi  exoriuntur." 

3  "  Corp.  ref.,"  3,  p.  503  sqq.    Kostlin-Kawerau,  2,  p.  451. 

4  Cp.  "  RE.  f.  prot.  Th.,"  3,  Art.  "  Melanchthon,"  p.  523. 

5  Cp.  Dollinger,  "Reformation,"  1,  p.  394. 

v.— s 


Melanchthon's  Strictures  on  Luther.    His  "  Bondage  " 

If  we  consider  more  closely  Melanchthon's  relations  with 
Luther  we  find  him,  even  during  Luther's  lifetime,  in- 
dignantly describing  the  latter's  attacks  on  man's  free-will 
as  "  stoica  et  manichcea  deliria  "  ;  he  himself,  he  declares,  in 
spite  of  Luther's  views  to  the  contrary,  had  always  insisted 
that  man,  even  before  regeneration,  is  able  by  virtue  of  his 
free-will  to  observe  outward  discipline  and,  that,  in  regenera- 
tion, free-will  follows  on  grace  and  thereafter  receives  from 
on  High  help  for  doing  what  is  good.  Later,  after  Luther's 
death,  he  declared,  with  regard  to  this  denial  of  free-will 
which  shocked  him,  that  it  was  quite  true  that  "  Luther  and 
others  had  written  that  all  works,  good  and  bad,  were 
inevitably  decreed  to  be  performed  of  all  men,  good  and  bad 
alike ;  but  it  is  plain  that  this  is  against  God's  Word, 
subversive  of  all  discipline  and  a  blasphemy  against  God."1 

In  a  letter  of  1535  to  Johann  Sturm  he  finds  fault  with  the 
harshness  of  Luther's  doctrine  and  with  his  manner  of  defending 
it,  though,  from  motives  of  caution,  he  refrains  from  mentioning 
Luther  by  name.  He  himself,  however,  was  looked  upon  at  the 
Court  of  the  Elector  as  "  less  violent  and  stubborn  than  some 
others  "  ;  it  was  just  because  they  fancied  him  useful  as  a  sort 
of  valve,  as  they  called  it,  that  they  refused  to  release  him  from 
his  professorial  chair  at  Wittenberg.  And  such  is  really  the  case. 
"  I  never  think  it  right  to  quarrel  unless  about  something  of  great 
importance  and  quite  essential.  To  support  every  theory  and 
extravagant  opinion  that  takes  the  field  has  never  been  my  way. 
Would  that  the  learned  were  permitted  to  speak  out  more  freely 
on  matters  of  importance  !  "  But,  instead  of  this,  people  ran 
after  their  own  fancies.  There  was  no  doubt  that,  at  times,  even 
some  of  their  own  acted  without  forethought.  "On  account  of 
my  moderation  I  am  in  great  danger  from  our  own  people  .  .  .  and 
it  seems  to  me  that  the  fate  of  Theramenes  awaits  me."2  Thera- 
menes  had  perished  on  the  scaffold  in  a  good  cause — but  before 
this  had  been  guilty  of  grievous  infidelity  and  was  a  disreputable 
intriguer.  Of  this  Melanchthon  can  scarcely  have  been  aware, 
otherwise  he  would  surely  have  chosen  some  less  invidious  term 
of  comparison.  He  was  happier  in  his  selection  when,  in  1544, 
he  compared  himself  to  Aristides  on  account  of  the  risk  he  ran 
of  being  sent  into  exile  by  Luther  :  "  Soon  you  will  hear  that  I 
have  been  sent  away  from  here  as  Aristides  was  from  Athens."3 

1  On  March  9,  1559,  to  the  Elector  August  of  Saxony,  "  Corp.  ref.," 
9,  p.  766  sq.    Cp.  "  RE.,"  ib.,  p.  525. 

2  As  early  as  Aug.  28,  1535,  "  Corp.  ref.,"  2,  p.  917. 

3  Sep.  8,  1544,  to  Peter  Medmann,  ib.,  5,  p.  478. 


Especially  after  1538,  i.e.  during  the  last  eight  years  of  Luther's 
life,  Melanchthon's  stay  at  Wittenberg  was  rendered  exceedingly 
unpleasant.  In  1538  he  reminds  Veit  Dietrich  of  the  state  of 
bondage  (5ov\6ttjs)  of  which  the  latter  had  gleaned  some  ac- 
quaintance while  in  Wittenberg  (1522-35)  ;  "  and  yet,"  he  con- 
tinues, "  Luther  has  since  become  much  worse."1  In  later  letters 
he  likens  Luther  to  the  demagogue  Cleon  and  to  boisterous 
Hercules. 2 

Although  it  was  no  easy  task  for  Luther,  whose  irritability 
increased  with  advancing  years,  to  conceal  his  annoyance 
with  his  friend  for  presuming  to  differ  from  him,  yet,  as  we 
know,  he  never  allowed  matters  to  come  to  an  open  breach. 
Melanchthon,  too,  owing  to  his  fears  and  pusillanimity, 
avoided  any  definite  personal  explanation.  Both  alike  were 
apprehensive  of  the  scandal  of  an  open  rupture  and  its 
pernicious  effects  on  the  common  cause.  Moreover,  Luther 
was  thoroughly  convinced  that  Melanchthon's  services  were 
indispensable  to  him,  particularly  in  view  of  the  gloomy 
outlook  for  the  future. 

The  matter,  however,  deserves  further  examination  in 
view  of  the  straightforwardness,  clearness  and  inexorable- 
ness  which  Luther  is  usually  supposed  to  have  displayed  in 
his  doctrines. 

When  important  interests  connected  with  his  position 
seemed  to  call  for  it,  Luther  could  be  surprisingly  lenient 
in  questions  of  doctrine.  Thus,  for  instance,  we  can  hardly 
recognise  the  once  so  rigid  Luther  in  the  Concord  signed 
with  the  Zwinglians,  and  again,  when,  for  a  while,  the 
English  seemed  to  be  dallying  with  Lutheranism.  In  the 
case  of  the  Zwinglian  townships  of  South  Germany,  which 
were  received  into  the  Union  by  the  Wittenberg  Concord 
the  better  to  strengthen  the  position  of  Lutheranism  against 
the  Emperor,  Luther  finally,  albeit  grudgingly,  gave  his 
assent  to  theological  articles  which  differed  so  widely  from 
his  own  doctrines  that  the  utmost  skill  was  required  to 
conceal  the  discrepancy.3  As  for  the  English,  Kolde  says : 
"  How  far  Luther  was  prepared  to  go  [in  allowing  matters 
to  take  their  course]  we  see,  e.g.  from  the  fact  that,  in  his 
letter  of  March  28,  1536,  to  the  Elector,  he  describes  the 
draft  Articles  of  agreement  with  the  English — only  recently 

1  Oct.  6,  1538,  ib.,  3,  p.  594. 

2  See  Dollinger,  "  Reformation,"  1,  p.  354,  and  3,  p.  270. 

3  See  above,  vol.  iii.,  p.  421  f. 


made  public  and  which  (apart  from  Art.  10,  which  might  at 
a  pinch  be  taken  in  the  Roman  sense)  are  altogether  on  the 
lines  of  the  '  Variata  ' — as  quite  in  harmony  with  our  own 
teaching."1  The  terms  of  this  agreement  were  drawn  up  by 
Melanchthon.  As  a  matter  of  fact  "  we  find  little  trace  of 
Luther's  spirit  in  the  Articles.  We  have  simply  to  compare 
[Luther's]  Schmalkalden  Articles  of  the  following  year  to 
be  convinced  how  greatly  Luther's  own  mode  of  thought 
and  expression  differed  from  those  Articles."  "  They  show 
us  what  concessions  the  Wittenberg  theologians,  as  a  body, 
were  disposed  to  make  in  order  to  win  over  such  a  country 
as  England."2 

Concerning  Luther's  attitude  towards  the  alterations 
made  by  Melanchthon  in  the  Confession  of  Augsburg  (above, 
vol.  iii.,  p.  445  f.)  we  must  also  assume  "  from  his  whole 
behaviour,  that  he  was  not  at  all  pleased  with  Melanch- 
thon's  action  ;  yet  he  allowed  it,  like  much  else,  to  pass."3 
This,    however,    does   not   exclude   Luther's   violence   and 

1  Kolde  in  the  Preface  to  the  "  Symbol.  Biicher,"  10,  p.  xxvi.,  No.  3. 
The  Articles  of  Agreement  were  published  in  full  by  G.  Mentz  in  1905, 
"  Die  Wittenberger  Artikel  von  1536  "  ("  Quellenschriften  zur  Gesch. 
des  Prot.,"  Hft.  2).  Letter  to  the  Elector,  "  Werke,"  Erl.  ed.,  55, 
p.  128  ;  "  Briefe,"  4,  p.  683  ("  Brief wechsel,"  10,  p.  315,  where  Enders, 
as  late  as  1903,  had  to  admit  :  "  The  doctrinal  articles  herewith  trans- 
mitted are  not  known  ").  On  the  negotiations  with  the  English,  see 
vol.  iv.,  p.  10  f. 

2  Thus  Mentz,  the  editor,  p.  11.  Some  theses  from  these  Articles  of 
Agreement  proposed  by  the  Wittenbergers  but  not  accepted  by  the 
English  deserve  to  be  quoted  from  the  new  sources  ;  their  divergence 
from  Luther's  ordinary  teaching  is  self-evident.  Of  good  works  : 
"  Bona  opera  non  sunt  precium  pro  vita  ceterna,  tamen  sunt  necessaria  ad 
salutem,  quia  sunt  debitum,  quod  necessario  reconciliationem  sequi  debet." 
In  support  of  this  Mt.  xix.  17  is  quoted  :  "  Si  vis  ad  vitam  ingredi  serva 
mandata."  Again  :  "  Docemus  requiri  opera  a  Deo  mandata  et  quidem 
non  tantum  externa  civilia  opera,  sed  etiam  spirituales  motus,  timorem 
Dei,  fiduciam,"  etc.  (p.  34). — "  Hcec  obedientia  in  reconciliatis  fide  iam 
reputatur  esse  iustitia  et  qucedam  legis  impletio  "  (p.  40). — "  Docendce  sunt 
ecclesio3  de  necessitate  et  de  dignitate  huius  obediential,  videlicet  quod  .  .  . 
hcec  obedientia  seu  iusticia  bonce  conscientics  sit  necessaria  quia  debitum 
est,  quod  necessario  sequi  reconciliationem  debet  "  (p.  42). — Merit,  at 
least  in  a  certain  restricted  sense,  is  also  admitted  :  "  Ad  hcec  bona 
opera  sunt  meritoria  iuxta  illud  (1  Cor.  iii.  8)  :  Unusquisque  accipiet 
mercedem  iuxta  proprium  laborem."  (Cp.  the  Apologia  of  the  Con- 
fession of  Augsburg,  "  Symb.  Biicher,"  pp.  120,  148.)  "  Etsi  enim 
conscientia  non  potest  statuere,  quod  propter  dignitatem  operum  detur  vita 
ceterna,  sed  nascimur  filii  Dei  et  hceredes  per  misericordiam  (which  is  also 
the  Catholic  teaching)  tamen  hcec  opera  in  filiis  merentur  prcemia 
corporalia  et  spiritualia  et  gradus  prcemiorum,"  etc.  (p.  46).  The 
ambiguity  concerning  Christ's  Presence  in  the  Eucharist  (p.  62)  is  due 
to  Melanchthon,  not  to  Luther.  3  Kolde,  ib. 


narrowness  having  caused  an  estrangement  between  them, 
Melanchthon  having  daily  to  apprehend  outbursts  of  anger, 
so  that  his  stay  became  extremely  painful.  The  most 
critical  time  was  in  the  summer  of  1544,  in  consequence  of 
the  Cologne  Book  of  Reform  (vol.  iii.,  p.  447).  Luther,  who 
strongly  suspected  Melanchthon's  orthodoxy  on  the  Supper, 
prepared  to  assail  anew  those  who  denied  the  Real  Presence. 
Yet  the  storm  which  Melanchthon  dreaded  did  not  touch 
him ;  Luther's  "  Kurtz  Bekentnis  vom  heiligen  Sacrament," 
which  appeared  at  the  end  of  September,  failed  to  mention 
Melanchthon's  name.  On  Oct.  7,  Cruciger  was  able  by  letter 
to  inform  Dietrich,  that  the  author  no  longer  displayed  any 
irritation  against  his  old  friend.1  Here  again  considera- 
tions of  expediency  had  prevailed  over  dogmatic  scruples, 
nor  is  there  any  doubt  that  the  old  feeling  of  friendship, 
familiarity  and  real  esteem  asserted  its  rights,  We  may 
recall  the  kindly  sympathy  and  care  that  Luther  lavished 
on  Melanchthon  when  the  latter  fell  sick  at  Weimar,  owing 
to  the  trouble  consequent  on  his  sanction  given  to  the 
Hessian  bigamy.2 

Indeed  we  must  assume  that  the  relations  between  the 
two  were  often  more  cordial  than  would  appear  from  the 
letters  of  one  so  timid  and  fainthearted  as  Melanchthon  ; 
the  very  adaptability  of  the  latter's  character  renders  this 
probable.  In  Nov.,  1544,  Chancellor  Briick  declared  : 
"  With  regard  to  Philip,  as  far  as  I  can  see,  he  and  Martin 
are  quite  close  friends  "  ;  in  another  letter  written  about 
that  time  he  also  says  Luther  had  told  him  that  he  was 
quite  unaware  of  any  differences  between  himself  and 

The  latter,  whenever  he  was  at  Wittenberg,  also  continued 
as  a  rule  to  put  in  an  appearance  at  Luther's  table,  and 
there  is  little  doubt  that,  on  such  occasions,  Luther's  frank 
and  open  conversation  often  availed  to  banish  any  ill-feeling 
there  may  have  been.    We  learn  that  Magister  Philip  was 

1  "  Corp.  ref.,"  5,  p.  497. 

2  To  Melanchthon,  June  18,  1540,  "  Brief e,"  ed.  De  Wette,  5, 
p.  293  ;  "  Brief wechsel,"  13,  p.  91  ;  "  Ratzebergers  Gesch.,"  p.  102  ff.  ; 
u  Corp.  ref.,"  3,  pp.  1060  sq.,  1077,  1081.  To  Johann  Lang,  July  2, 
1540,  "  Briefe,"  ib.,  p.  297  ;  "  Brief  wechsel,"  13,  p.  109  :  "  mortuum 
enim  invenimus  ;   miraculo  Dei  manifesto  vivit."    See  vol.  iii.,  p.  162. 

3  Kostlin-Kawerau,  2,  p.  689  ;  "  Anal.  Luth.,"  ed.  Kolde,  p.  402  ; 
"  Corp.  ref.,"  5,  p.  522. 


present  at  the  dinner  in  celebration  of  Luther's  birthday  in 
1544,  together  with  Cruciger,  Bugenhagen,  Jonas  and  Major, 
and  that  they  exchanged  confidences  concerning  the  present 
and  future  welfare  of  the  new  religion.1 

When  Melanchthon  was  away  from  Wittenberg  engaged 
in  settling  ecclesiastical  matters  elsewhere  he  was  careful 
to  keep  Luther  fully  informed  of  the  course  of  affairs.  He 
occasionally  expressed  his  thanks  to  the  latter  for  the 
charity  and  kindness  of  his  replies  ;  Luther  in  his  turn 
kept  him  posted  in  the  little  intimacies  of  their  respective 
families,  in  the  occurrences  in  the  town  and  University  of 
Wittenberg,  and  almost  always  added  a  request  for  prayer 
for  help  in  his  struggles  with  "  Satan."  This  intimate 
correspondence  was  carried  on  until  the  very  month  before 
Luther's  death.  Even  in  his  last  letters  Luther  calls  the 
friend  with  whom  he  had  worked  for  so  many  years  "  My 
Philip  "  ;  Melanchthon,  as  a  rule,  heads  his  communications 
in  more  formal  style  :  "  Clarissimo  et  optimo  viro  D.  Martino 
Luthero,  doctori  theologies,  instauratori  puree  evangelicee 
doctrince  ac  patri  suo  in  Christo  reverendo  et  charissimo."2' 

The  great  praise  which  Melanchthon  bestows  on  the 
deceased  immediately  after  his  death  is  indeed  startling,  but 
we  must  beware  of  regarding  it  as  mere  hypocrisy. 

The  news  of  Luther's  death  which  took  place  at  Eisleben  on 
Feb.  14,  1546,  was  received  by  Melanchthon  the  very  next  day. 
In  spite  of  all  their  differences  it  must  have  come  as  a  shock  to 
him,  the  more  so  that  the  responsibility  for  the  direction  of  his 
friend's  work  was  now  to  devolve  on  him. 

The  panegyric  on  Luther  which  Melanchthon  delivered  at 
Wittenberg  boldly  places  him  on  the  same  footing  with  Isaias, 
John  the  Baptist,  the  Apostle  of  the  Gentiles,  and  Augustine  of 
Hippo.  In  it  the  humanistic  element  and  style  is  more  noticeable 
than  the  common  feeling  of  the  friend.  He  hints  discreetly  at 
the  "  great  vehemence  "  of  the  departed,  but  does  not  omit  to 
mention  that  everyone  who  was  acquainted  with  him  must  bear 
witness  that  he  had  always  shown  himself  kind-hearted  towards 
his  friends,  and  never  obstinate  or  quarrelsome.3  Though  this 
is  undoubtedly  at  variance  with  what  he  says  elsewhere,  still  such 
a  thing  was  expected  in  those  days  in  panegyrics  on  great  men, 
nor  would  so  smooth-tongued  an  orator  have  felt  any  scruple 
about  it.     In  his  previous  announcement  of  Luther's  death  to 

1  "  Corp.  ref.,"  5,  p.  524. 

2  Cp.,  for  instance,  "  Luthers  Brief wechsel,"  12,  pp.  106,  116,  123, 
etc.  ;    13,  pp.  282,  318. 

3  Discourse  of  Feb.  22,  1546,  "  Corp.  ref.,"  11,  p.  726  sqq. 


the  students  he  had  exclaimed  :  "  The  chariot  of  Israel  and  the 
driver  thereof  have  been  taken  from  us,  the  man  who  ruled  the 
Church  in  these  days  of  the  world's  senile  decay."1 

Melanchthon's  Last  Years 

After  Luther's  death  Melanchthon  had  still  to  endure  fourteen 
years  of  suffering,  perhaps  of  even  more  bitter  character  than  he 
had  yet  tasted.  Whilst  representing  Lutheranism  and  taking  the 
lead  amongst  his  colleagues  he  did  so  with  the  deliberate  inten- 
tion of  maintaining  the  new  faith  by  accommodating  himself 
indulgently  to  the  varying  conditions  of  the  times.  Our  narrative 
may  here  be  permitted  to  anticipate  somewhat  in  order  to  give 
a  clear  and  connected  account  of  Melanchthon's  inner  life  and 
ultimate  fate. 2 

His  half-heartedness  and  love  of  compromise  were  a  cause  of 
many  hardships  to  him,  particularly  at  the  time  of  the  so-called 
Interims  of  Augsburg  and  Leipzig.  It  was  a  question  of  intro- 
ducing the  Augsburg  Interim  into  the  Saxon  Electorate  after  the 
latter,  owing  to  the  War  of  Schmalkalden,  had  come  under  the 
rule  of  the  new  Elector  Maurice.  Melanchthon  had  at  first 
opposed  the  provisions  of  this  Interim,  by  means  of  which  the 
Emperor  hoped  gradually  to  bring  the  Protestants  back  to  the 
fold.  In  Dec,  1548,  however,  he,  together  with  other  theologians, 
formally  accepted  the  Leipzig  articles,  which,  owing  to  their 
similarity  with  the  Augsburg  Interim,  were  dubbed  by  his 
opponents  the  "Leipzig  Interim."3  In  this  the  "moot  ob- 
servances (Adiaphora),  i.e.  those  which  may  be  kept  without 
any  contravention  of  Divine  Scripture,"  were  extended  by 
Melanchthon  so  as  to  include  the  reintroduction  of  fasting, 
festivals,  not  excluding  even  Corpus  Christi,  images  of  the  Saints 
in  the  churches,  the  Latin  liturgy,  the  Canonical  Hours  in  Latin 
and  even  a  sort  of  hierarchy.  Melanchthon  also  agreed  to  the 
demand  for  the  recognition  of  the  seven  sacraments.  By  strongly 
emphasising  his  own  doctrine  of  synergism,  he  brought  the  Wit- 
tenberg teaching  on  Justification  much  nearer  to  Catholic  dogma  ; 
he  even  dealt  a  death-blow  to  the  genuine  doctrine  of  Luther  by 
appending  his  signature  to  the  following  proposition  :  "  God 
does  not  deal  with  man  as  with  a  block  of  wood,  but  so  draws  him 
that  his  will  also  co-operates."  In  addition  to  this  the  true  char- 
acter of  Luther's  sola  fides,  or  assurance  of  salvation,  was  veiled 
by  Melanchthon  under  the  formula :  "  True  faith  accepts, 
together  with  other  articles,  that  of  the  '  Forgiveness  of  Sins.'  " 
Hence  when  Flacius  Illyricus,  Amsdorf,  Gallus,  Wigand, 
Westphal  and  others  loudly  protested  against  Melanchthon  as 
though  he  had  denied  Luther's  doctrine,  they  were  not  so  very  far 
wrong.  The  result  of  their  vigorous  opposition  and  of  the  number 
of  those  who  sided  with  them  was  that  Melanchthon  gradually 

1  "  Corp.  ref.,"  6,  p.  59. 

2  For  further  details,  see  below,  vol.  vi.,  xl.,  3. 

3  On  what  follows,  see  Loofs,  "  DG.,"  4,  p.  867  f. 


ceased  to  be  the  head  of  the  Lutheran  Church,  becoming  merely 
the  leader  of  a  certain  party. 

Later  on,  in  1552,  when  the  position  of  public  affairs  in 
Germany  was  more  favourable  to  Protestantism,  Melanchthon 
admitted  that  he  had  been  wrong  in  his  views  concerning  the 
Adiaphora,  since,  after  all,  they  were  not  so  unimportant  as  he 
had  at  first  thought.  In  order  to  pacify  his  opponents  he  in- 
cluded the  following  proposition  in  his  form  of  examination  for 
new  preachers  :  "  We  ought  to  profess,  not  the  Papal  errors, 
Interim,  etc.  .  .  .  but  to  remain  faithful  to  the  pure  Divine 
teaching  of  the  Gospel."1 

Opposition  to  the  "  Papal  errors  "  was  indeed  the  one  thing 
to  which  he  steadfastly  adhered  ;  this  negative  side  of  his  atti- 
tude never  varied,  whatever  changes  may  have  taken  place  in  his 
positive  doctrines. 

Nevertheless  during  the  ensuing  controversies  he  was  regarded 
as  a  traitor  by  the  stricter  Lutherans  and  treated  with  a  scorn 
that  did  much  to  embitter  his  last  years.  The  attitude  of  his 
opponents  was  particularly  noticeable  at  the  conference  of  Worms 
in  1557.  Even  before  this,  they,  particularly  the  Jena  theologians, 
had  planned  an  outspoken  condemnation  of  all  those  who  "  had 
departed  from  the  Augsburg  Confession,"  as  Melanchthon  had 
done.  They  now  appeared  at  Worms  with  others  of  the  same 
way  of  thinking.  "  I  desire  no  fellowship  with  those  who  defile 
the  purity  of  our  doctrine,"  wrote  one  of  them  ;  "we  must  shun 
them,  according  to  the  words  of  the  Bible  :  '  If  any  man  come 
to  you  and  bring  not  this  doctrine,  receive  him  not  into  the  house 
nor  say  to  him,  God  speed  you.'  "2  The  friends  of  Flacius 
Illyricus  at  the  very  first  meeting  made  no  secret  of  their  unani- 
mous demand,  so  that  Melanchthon  in  his  justificatory  statement 
could  well  say  :  "I  see  plainly  that  all  this  is  directed  solely 
against  me."  He  opposed  any  condemnation  of  Zwingli  or  of 
Calvin  on  account  of  their  doctrine  on  the  Supper ;  this,  he  said, 
was  the  business  of  a  synod. 

At  the  very  outset  of  the  disputations  with  the  Catholics  it 
became  evident  anew  that  the  divergency  of  the  Protestants  in 
the  interpretation  of  Holy  Scripture  was  too  great  to  allow  of  the 
points  under  discussion  being  satisfactorily  settled  in  conference  ; 
the  abrogation  of  an  ecclesiastical  authority  for  the  exposition 
of  Scripture  had  resulted  in  an  ever-growing  want  of  unity  in  the 
interpretation  of  the  Bible.  Peter  Canisius,  the  Catholic  spokes- 
man, pointed  out  emphatically  what  obstacles  were  presented  by 
the  contradictory  opinions  on  doctrine  amongst  the  Protestants  ; 
where  every  man  traced  his  opinions  back  to  Scripture,  how  was 
it  possible  to  arrive  at  any  decision  ?3  It  was  from  Canisius, 
"  who  during  the  course  of  the  conference  distinguished  himself 
as  the  leader  of  the  Catholic  party  and  later  repeatedly  proved 

1  Ellinger,  "  Melanchthon,"  p.  554. 

2  lb.,  p.  569. 

3  Cp.  the  report  of  Peter  Canisius  to  Lainez,  General  of  the  Jesuits, 
Braunsberger,  "  Epistulse  b.  Petri  Canisii,"  2,  p.  176  sq. 


himself  a  sharp  observer  of  the  religious  conditions  in  Germany,"1 
that  the  suggestion  came,  that  the  Protestants  should  define 
their  position  more  clearly  by  repudiating  certain  divergent 
sects.  This  led  the  followers  of  Flacius  to  demand  that  all  the 
Evangelicals  should  unite  in  condemning  Zwinglianism,  Osian- 
derism,  Adiaphorism  and  Majorism,  and  also  Calvin's  doctrine 
on  the  Supper.  To  this  Melanchthon  and  his  friends  absolutely 
refused  to  agree.  The  result  was  that  the  followers  of  Flacius 
departed  greatly  incensed,  and  the  conference  had  to  be  broken 
off.  "  The  contradictions  in  the  very  heart  of  Protestantism 
were  thus  revealed  to  the  whole  world."2 

"  No  greater  disgrace  befell  the  Reformation  in  the  16th 

From  that  time  Melanchthon  was  a  broken  man.  His  friend 
Languet  wrote  to  Calvin,  "  Mr.  Philip  is  so  worn  out  with  old 
age,  toils,  calumnies  and  intrigues  that  nothing  is  left  of  his 
former  cheerfulness."4 

Melanchthon  characterised  the  Book  of  Confutation  published 
by  the  Duke  of  Saxony  in  1558,  and  finally  revised  by  Flacius,  as 
a  "  congeries  of  sophisms  "  which  he  had  perused  with  great  pain, 
and  as  "  venomous  sophistry."  He  therefore  once  more  begged 
for  his  dismissal. 5 

His  longing  for  death  as  a  happy  release  from  such  bitter 
affliction  we  find  expressed  in  many  of  his  letters.  To  Sigismund 
Gelous  of  Eperies  in  Hungary  he  wrote,  on  May  20,  1559,  that  he 
was  not  averse  to  departing  this  life  owing  to  the  attacks  on  his 
person,  and  in  order  that  he  might  behold  "  the  light  of  the 
Heavenly  Academy  "  and  become  partaker  of  its  wisdom.6  He 
looked  forward,  so  he  writes  to  another,  to  that  light  "  where 
God  is  all  in  all  and  where  there  is  no  more  sophistry  or  calumny."7 
Only  a  few  days  before  his  death  he  solaced  himself  by  drawing 
up  some  notes  entitled  :  "  Reasons  why  you  should  fear  death 
less."  On  the  left  of  the  sheet  he  wrote  :  "  You  will  escape  from 
sin,  and  will  be  delivered  from  all  trouble  and  the  fury  of  the 
theologians  ('liberaberis  ab  cerumnis  et  a  rabie  theologorum ' ) "  ; 
and,  on  the  right :  "  You  will  attain  to  the  light,  you  will  behold 
God,  you  will  look  on  the  Son  of  God,  you  will  see  into  those 

1  Ellinger,  ib.,  p.  570.  2  lb.,  p.  571. 

3  Thus  the  Protestant  theologian  Nitzsch,  see  "  RE.  f.  prot.  Th.,"  3, 
Art.  "  Melanchthon,"  p.  525.  Loofs,  4,  p. 904.  "  The  religious  confer- 
ence suffered  shipwreck  from  want  of  unity  amongst  the  Evangelicals." 
The  Gnesio- Lutherans  demanded  (Sep.  27)  that  all  errors  on  "  the 
Supper"  should  be  condemned,  "whether  emanating  from  Carlstadt, 
Zwingli,  (Eeolampadius,  Calvin  or  others."  Calvin's  doctrine  was, 
however,  substantially  identical  with  Melanchthon's  at  tl:at  time. 

4  "  RE.,"  ib. 

6  To  Camerarius,  Feb.  16,  1559,  "  Corp.  ref.,"  9,  p.  744. 

6  16.,  p.  822.  As  a  Humanist  he  was  fond  of  conjuring  up  heaven 
under  the  image  of  the  Academy.  In  his  address  to  the  students  on 
Luther's  death  he  says,  the  former  had  been  snatched  away  "  in 
(Bternam  scholam  et  in  ceterna  gaudia." 

7  To  Buchholzer,  Aug.  10,  1559,  ib.,  p.  898. 


wonderful  mysteries  which  you  have  been  unable  to  comprehend 
in  this  life,  such  as  why  we  are  created  as  we  are,  and  how  the 
two  natures  are  united  in  Christ."1  He  finally  departed  this  life 
on  April  19,  1560,  from  the  results  of  a  severe  cold. 

Review  of  Melanchthon 's  Religious  Position  as  a  whole 

Melanchthon's  last  work  was  a  "  strong  protest  against 
Catholicism,"  which  at  the  same  time  embodied  an  abstract 
of  his  whole  doctrine — such  as  it  had  become  during  the 
later  years  of  his  life.  This  work  he  calls  his  "  Confession  "  ; 
it  is  professedly  aimed  at  the  "  godless  Articles  of  the 
Bavarian  Inquisition,"  i.e.  was  intended  to  counteract  the 
efforts  of  Duke  Albert  of  Bavaria  to  preserve  his  country 
from  the  inroads  of  Protestantism.2 

In  this  "  Confession,"  dating  from  the  evening  of  his  days,  the 
"  so-peaceful  "  Melanchthon  bluntly  describes  the  Pope  and  all 
his  train  (satellites)  as  "  defenders  of  idols  "  ;  according  to  him 
they  "  withstand  the  known  truth,  and  cruelly  rage  against  the 
pious."3  This  book,  with  its  superficial  humanistic  theology, 
justifies,  like  so  many  of  his  earlier  works,  the  opinion  of  learned 
Catholic  contemporaries  who  regretted  that  the  word  of  a  scholar 
devoid  of  any  sound  theological  training  should  exercise  so  much 
influence  over  the  most  far-reaching  religious  questions  of  the 

Writing  to  Cardinal  Sadoleto,  Johann  Fabri,  Bishop  of  Vienna, 
says,  "  Would  that  Melanchthon  had  pursued  his  studies  on  the 
lines  indicated  by  his  teacher  Capnion  [Reuchlin]  !  Would  that 
he  had  but  remained  content  with  the  rhetoric  and  grammar  of 
the  ancients  instead  of  allowing  his  youthful  ardour  to  carry  him 
away,  to  turn  the  true  religion  into  a  tragedy  !  But  alas  .  .  . 
when  barely  eighteen  years  of  age  he  began  to  teach  the  simple, 
and,  by  his  soft  speeches,  he  has  disturbed  the  whole  Church 
beyond  measure.  And  even  after  so  many  years  he  is  still  unable 
to  see  his  error  or  to  desist  from  the  doctrines  once  imbibed  and 
from  furthering  such  lamentable  disorders."4  To  this  letter 
Fabri  appended  excerpts  from  various  writings  of  Melanchthon's 
as  "  specimens  of  what  his  godless  pen  had  produced  against  the 
truth  and  the  peace  of  the  Church." 

Others,  for  instance  Eck  and  Cochkeus,  in  their  descriptions  of 
Melanchthon  dwell  on  the  traits  that  displeased  them  in  their 
personal  intercourse  with  him. 

1  lb.,  p.  1098. 

2  Thus  in  his  "  Testament  "  of  April  18,  1560,  ib.,  p.  1099. 

3  Reprinted  in  "  Opera  Ph.  Melanchtonis,"  t.  1,  Vitebergse,  1562, 
p.  364  sqq. 

i  Jan.  28,  1538,  "  Zeitschr.  f.  KG.,"  20,  p.  247  ff.  G.  Kawerau, 
"  Die  Versuche  Melanchthon  zur  kathol.  Kirche  zuruckzufuhren," 
1902  ("  Schriften  des  Vereins  f.  RG.,"  No.  73),  p.  43. 


Johann  Eck  compares  the  way  in  which  Melanchthon  twice 
outwitted  Cardinal  Campeggio  to  the  false  arts  of  Sinon  the 
Greek,  known  to  us  from  Virgil's  account  of  the  introduction  of 
the  wooden  horse  into  Troy.1  Johann  Cochlaeus,  who  had  met 
him  at  Augsburg,  calls  him  the  "  fox,"  and  once  warns  a  friend : 
"  Take  care  lest  he  cheat  you  with  his  deceitful  cunning,  for,  like 
the  Sirens,  he  gains  a  hearing  by  sweet  and  honeyed  words  ;  he 
makes  a  hypocritical  use  of  lying  ;  he  is  ever  planning  how  he 
may  win  men's  hearts  by  all  manner  of  wiles,  and  seduces  them 
with  dishonest  words."2  About  the  same  time  in  a  printed  reply 
to  Melanchthon's  "  Apologia,"  he  drew  an  alarming  picture  of 
the  latter 's  trickery  at  the  Diet  of  Augsburg.  By  worming  him- 
self into  the  confidence  of  the  Princes  and  great  men  present, 
Melanchthon  learned,  so  he  says,  things  that  were  little  to  the 
credit  of  the  Catholic  Church  ;  these  he  afterwards  retailed  to 
Luther,  who  at  once,  after  duly  embellishing  them,  flung  the  tales 
broadcast  amongst  the  people  by  means  of  the  press.  Melanch- 
thon made  not  the  slightest  attempt  to  correct  his  statements,  as 
he  was  in  duty  bound  to  do,  and  his  honeyed  words  merely  fed  the 
flames.3  "Most  people,"  he  writes  elsewhere,  "if  not  all,  have 
hitherto  supposed  Melanchthon  to  be  much  milder  and  more 
moderate  than  Luther  "  ;  such  persons  should,  however,  study 
his  writings  carefully,  and  then  they  would  soon  see  how  unspeak- 
ably bitter  was  his  feeling  against  Catholics.4 

The  latter  assertion  is  only  too  fully  confirmed  by  the  extracts 
already  put  before  the  reader,  particularly  by  those  from  his 
Schmalkalden  tract  on  the  Pope,  from  his  Introduction  to  the 
new  edition  of  Luther's  "  Warnunge  "  and  from  the  "  Confession  " 
just  alluded  to.6  Here  there  glows  such  deep  hatred  of  the  faith 
and  practices  of  the  Catholic  Church  that  one  seeks  in  vain  for 
the  common  ground  on  which  his  professed  love  for  union  could 

His  conciliatory  proposals  were,  however,  in  fact  nothing  more 
than  the  vague  and  barren  cravings  of  a  Humanist. 

In  connection  with  this  a  characteristic,  already  pointed 
out,  which  runs  through  the  whole  of  Melanchthon's 
religious  attitude  and  strongly  differentiates  him  from 
Luther,  merits  being  emphasised  anew.  This  is  the  shallow, 
numbing  spirit  which  penetrates  alike  his  theology  and  his 
philosophy,  and  the  humanistic  tendency  to  reduce  every- 
thing to  uniformity.    That,  in  his  theological  vocabulary  he 

1  To  Vergerio,  June  1,  1534,  "  Zeitschr.  f .  KG.,"  19,  p.  222.  Kawerau, 
ib.,  p.  79. 

2  To  Bishop  Cricius,  June  2,  1534,  in  his  "  Velitatio  in  Apologiam 
Ph.  Melanchthonis,"  1534,  Bl.  A.  6  ff.    Kawerau,  ib.,  p.  23  f. 

3  "  Velitatio,"  Bl.  A.  4.    Kawerau,  p.  25. 

4  "  Zeitschr.  f.  KG.,"  18,  p.  424.    Kawerau,  p.  64  f. 

5  Vol.  ii.,  p.  438  ff.,  and  above,  p.  266.  Cp.  vol.  hi.,  p.  447  (Cologne 
Book  of  Reform). 


is  fond  of  using  classical  terms  (speaking,  for  instance,  of  the 
heavenly  "  Academy  "  where  we  attend  the  "  school  "  of 
the  Apostles  and  Prophets)1  is  a  detail ;  he  goes  much 
further  and  makes  suspiciously  free  with  the  whole  contents 
of  the  faith,  whether  for  the  sake  of  reducing  it  to  system, 
or  for  convenience,  or  in  order  to  promote  peace.2  It  would 
have  fared  ill  with  Melanchthon  had  he  applied  to  himself 
in  earnest  what  Luther  said  of  those  who  want  to  be  wiser 
than  God,  who  follow  their  crazy  reason  and  seek  to  bring 
about  an  understanding  between  Christ  and  .  .  .  the  devil. 
But  Melanchthon's  character  was  pliant  enough  not  to  be 
unduly  hurt  by  such  words  of  Luther's.  He  was  able,  on  the 
one  hand,  to  regard  Bucer  and  the  Swiss  as  his  close  allies 
on  the  question  of  the  Supper  and,  on  the  other,  while  all 
the  time  sticking  fast  to  Luther,  he  could  declare  that 
on  the  whole  he  entirely  agreed  with  the  religious  views  of 
Erasmus,  the  very  "  antipodes  of  Luther."  It  was  only 
his  lack  of  any  real  religious  depth  which  enabled  him  so  to 
act.  In  a  sketch  of  Erasmus  which  he  composed  for  one  of 
his  pupils  in  1557,  he  even  makes  the  former,  in  spite  of  all 
his  hostility  to  Luther,  to  share  much  the  same  way  of 
thinking,  a  fact  which  draws  from  Kawerau  the  complaint  : 
"  So  easy  was  it  for  Melanchthon  to  close  his  eyes  to  the 
doctrinal  differences  which  existed  even  amongst  the 
4  docti:  "3 

A  similar  lack  of  any  just  and  clear  appreciation  of  the 
great  truths  of  the  faith  is  also  apparent  in  Melanchthon's 
letters  to  Erasmus,  more  particularly  in  the  later  ones. 
Here  personal  friendship  and  Humanist  fellow-feeling  vie 
with  each  other  in  explaining  away  in  the  most  startling 
manner  the  religious  differences.4  Many  elements  of 
theology  were  dissolved  by  Melanchthon's  subjective 
method  of  exegesis  and  by  the  system  of  philosophy  he  had 
built  up  from  the  classical  authors,  particularly  from  Cicero. 
Melanchthon's  philosophy  was  quite  unfitted  to  throw  light 

1  Cp.  above,  p.  265,  n.  6. 

2  The  authors  of  the  Article  on  Melanchthon  in  the  "  RE.  f.  prot. 
Th.,"  3,  say,  p.  535 :  "A  Humanist  mode  of  thought  forms  the  back- 
ground of  his  theology  "  ;  Melanchthon  strove  for  a  kind  of  com- 
promise between  Christian  truth  and  ancient  philosophy. 

3  "  Versuche,"  p.  83,  with  the  above  example  taken  from  "  Corp. 
ref.,"  12,  p.  269. 

4  Cp.,  for  instance,  the  letter  of  May  12,  1536,  to  Erasmus,  "  Corp. 
ref.,"  3,  p.  68  sq.    Kawerau,  ib.,  p.  32. 


on  the  doctrines  of  revelation.  To  him  the  two  domains, 
of  philosophy  and  theology,  seemed,  not  only  independent, 
but  actually  hostile  to  each  other,  a  state  of  things  absolutely 
unknown  to  the  Middle  Ages.  If,  as  Melanchthon  avers, 
reason  is  unable  to  prove  the  existence  of  God  on  philo- 
sophical grounds,  then,  by  this  very  fact,  the  science  of  the 
supernatural  loses  every  stay,  nor  is  it  possible  any  longer  to 
defend  revelation  against  unbelief. 

It  is  the  merest  makeshift,  when,  like  other  of  his  Humanist 
contemporaries,  Melanchthon  seeks  to  base  our  knowledge 
of  God's  existence  on  feeling  and  on  a  vague  inward  experi- 

Thus  we  can  quite  understand  how  old-fashioned  Protes- 
tantism, after  having  paid  but  little  attention  to  Melanchthon 
either  in  the  days  of  orthodox  Lutheranism  or  of  Pietism, 
began  to  have  recourse  to  him  with  the  advent  of  Rational- 
ism. The  orthodox  had  missed  in  him  Luther's  sparkling 
"  strength  of  faith  "  and  the  courageous  resolve  to  twit  the 
"  devil  "  within  and  without ;  the  Pietists  failed  to  discern 
in  him  the  mysticism  they  extolled  in  Luther.  Rationalists, 
on  the  other  hand,  found  in  him  many  kindred  elements. 
Even  of  quite  recent  years  Melanchthon  has  been  hailed  as 
the  type  of  the  easy-going  theologian  who  seeks  to  bridge 
the  chasm  between  believing  and  infidel  Protestantism  ;  at 
any  rate,  Melanchthon's  positive  belief  was  far  more  ex- 
tensive than  that  of  many  of  his  would-be  imitators. 

Melanchthon  Legends 

The  tale  once  current  that,  at  the  last,  Melanchthon 
was  a  Lutheran  only  in  name,  is  to-day  rejected  by  all 
scholars,  Protestant  and  Catholic. 

Concerning  the  "  honesty  of  his  Protestantism "  "no 
doubts  "  are  raised  by  Protestant  theologians,  who  call 
his  teaching  a  "  modification  and  a  toning  down  "  of  that 
of  Luther  ;  nor  can  we  conclude  that  "  he  was  at  all  shaky 
in  his  convictions,"  even  should  the  remarkable  utterance 
about  to  be  cited  really  emanate  from  him.2  A  Catholic 
historian  of  the  highest  standing  agrees  in  saying  of  him  : 
"Even  though  Luther's  teaching  may  not  have  completely 

1  Cp.  the  Article  quoted,  p.  268,  n.  2. 

2  lb.,  and  pp.  532,  537  of  the  "  Realenzyklopadie." 


satisfied  Melanchthon,  yet  there  is  no  reason  to  doubt,  that, 
on  the  whole,  he  was  heart  and  soul  on  the  side  of  the 
innovations.  .  .  .  We  may  now  and  then  come  upon 
actions  on  his  part  which  arouse  a  suspicion  as  to  his 
straightforwardness,  but  on  the  whole  his  convictions 
cannot  be  questioned."1 

In  Catholic  literature,  nevertheless,  even  down  to  the  present 
day,  we  often  find  Melanchthon  quoted  as  having  said  to  his 
mother,  speaking  of  the  relative  value  of  the  old  and  the  new 
religion  :  "  Hcec  plausibilior,  ilia  securior  ;  Lutheranism  is  the 
more  popular,  but  Catholicism  is  the  safer."2 

This  story  concerning  Melanchthon  assumed  various  forms  as 
time  went  on.  We  must  dismiss  the  version  circulated  by  Flori- 
mond  de  Raemond  in  1605,  to  the  effect  that  the  words  had  been 
spoken  by  Melanchthon  on  his  death-bed  to  his  mother  who  had 
remained  a  Catholic,  when  the  latter  adjured  him  to  tell  her  the 
truth  ; 3  his  mother,  as  a  matter  of  fact,  died  at  her  home  at  Bretten 
in  the  Lower  Palatinate  long  before  her  son,  in  1529,  slightly 
before  July  24,  being  then  in  her  fifty-third  year. 4 

Nor  is  there  much  to  be  said  in  favour  of  another  version  of 
the  above  story  which  has  it  that  Melanchthon's  mother,  after 
having  been  persuaded  by  him  to  come  over,  visited  him  in  great 
distress  of  mind,  and  received  from  him  the  above  reply. 

Melanchthon  called  on  her  at  Bretten  in  May,  1524,  during 
his  stay  in  his  native  place,  and  may  have  done  so  again  in  1529 
in  the  spring,  when  attending  the  Diet  of  Spires.  A  passage  in 
his  correspondence  construed  as  referring  to  this  visit  is  by  no 
means  clear,5  though  the  illness  and  death  of  his  mother  would 
seem  to  make  such  a  flying  visit  likely.  On  a  third  occasion 
Melanchthon  went  to  Bretten  in  the  autumn  of  1536. 

We  shall  first  see  what  Protestant  writers  have  to  say  of  the 
supposed  conversation  with  the  mother. 

K.  Ed.  Forstemann,  who,  in  1830, 6  dealt  with  the  family  records 
of  the  Schwarzerd  family,  says  briefly  of  the  matter  :  "  Strobel 
was  wrong  in  declaring  this  story  to  be  utterly  devoid  of  historical 

1  F.  X.  Funk  in  the  "  KL.,"  2,  Art.  "  Melanchthon,"  p.  1212  f. 

2  For  a  supposed  remark  of  Luther's  to  Catherine  Bora  which 
would  seem  even  more  clearly  to  admit  the  uncertainty  of  the  new 
faith,  see  below,  p.  372  f. 

3  "  L'Histoire  de  la  naissance,  progrez  et  decadence  de  l'heresie  de 
ce  siecle,"  1.  2,  ch.  9  (Rouen,  1648),  p.  166  :  "  On  escrit,  qu'estant  sur 
le  poinct  de  rendre  Tame,  Fan  1560,  sa  mere,"  etc.  The  author  is  quite 
uncritical  (see  below,  p.  271). 

4  "  Corp.  ref.,"  1,  p.  1083,  Melanchthon  to  Camerarius.  C.  G. 
Strobel,  "  Melanchthoniana,"  1771,  p.  9. 

5  Cp.  N.  Miiller,  "  Jakob  Schwarzerd,"  1908  ("  Schriften  des  Vereins 
f.  RG.,"  Nos.  96-97),  p.  42,  on  "  Corp.  ref.,"  2,  p.  563.  Muller  assumes 
(p.  41)  that  the  visit  took  place  in  1524. 

6  "  Theol.  Stud,  und  Krit.,"  1,  1830,  pf  119  ff.,  "  Die  Schwarzerd." 


foundation."1  C.  G.  Strobel,  in  his  "  Melanchthoniana"  (1771), 
had  expressed  his  disbelief  in  the  tale  under  the  then  widespread 
form,  according  to  which  Melanchthon  had  spoken  the  words, 
when  visiting  his  dying  mother  in  1529  ;  he  had  been  much 
shocked  to  hear  it  told  in  rhetorical  style  by  M.  A.  J.  Bose  of 
Wittenberg  in  a  panegyric  on  Melanchthon.  Bose,  whose  lean- 
ings were  towards  the  Broad  School,  had  cited  the  story  approv- 
ingly as  an  instance  of  Melanchthon's  large-mindedness  in  re- 
ligion.2 Against  the  account  Strobel  alleges  several  a  priori 
objections  of  no  great  value  ;  his  best  argument  really  was  that 
there  was  no  authority  for  it. 

Forstemann's  brief  allusion  was  not  without  effect  on  the 
authors  of  the  article  on  Melanchthon  in  the  "  Realenzyklopadie 
fur  protestantische  Theologie  "  ;  there  we  read  :  "  The  tale  is 
at  least  not  unlikely,  though  it  cannot  be  proved  with  certainty  "  ;3 
even  G.  Ellinger,  the  latest  of  Melanchthon's  biographers, 
declares  :  "  We  may  assume  that  Melanchthon  treated  the 
religious  views  of  his  mother,  who  continued  till  the  end  of  her 
life  faithful  to  the  olden  Church,  with  the  same  tender  solicitude 
as  he  displayed  towards  her  in  the  later  conversation  in  1529." 4 

It  is  first  of  all  necessary  to  settle  whether  the  conversation 
actually  rests  on  reliable  authority.  Forstemann,  like  Strobel, 
mentions  only  Melchior  Adam  (|1622),  whose  "  Vitce  theologorum  " 
was  first  published  in  1615  (see  next  page). 

Adam,  a  Protestant  writer,  gives  no  authority  for  his  state- 
ment. iEgidius  Albertinus,  a  popular  Catholic  author,  writing 
slightly  earlier,  also  gives  the  story  in  his  "  Rekreation  "  (see 
next  page),  published  in  1612  and  1613,  likewise  without  indi- 
cating its  source. 

Earlier  than  either  we  have  Florimond  de  Raemond,  whose 
"  Histoire,"  etc.  (above,  p.  270,  n.  3)  contains  the  story  even  in 
the  1605  edition  ;  he  too  gives  no  authority.  So  far  no  earlier 
mention  of  the  story  is  known.  It  seems  to  have  been  a  current 
tale  in  Catholic  circles  abroad  and  may  have  been  printed. 
Strange  to  say  the  work  of  the  zealous  Catholic  convert  and 
polemic,  de  Raemond  (completed  and  seen  through  the  press  by 
his  son),  contains  the  story  under  the  least  likely  shape,  the 
dying  Melanchthon  being  made  to  address  the  words  to  his  mother, 
who  really  had  died  long  before. 

It  is  quite  likely  that  iEgidius  Albertinus,  the  well-read  priestly 
secretary  to  the  Munich  Council,  who  busied  himself  much  with 

1  P.  122. 

2  In  the  collection  of  essays  published  by  the  Wittenberg 
"  Academy,"  "  Memoria  Ph.  Melanchthonis,  finito  post  eius  exitum 
saeculo  II." 

3  3rd  ed.,  Art.  "  Melanchthon,"  p.  531. 

4  G.  Ellinger,  "  Melanchthon,"  1902,  p.  191.  F.  X.  Funk  remarks 
in  the  "  KL.,"  2,  Art.  "  Melanchthon,"  p.  1212 :  Melanchthon,  "  after 
having  made  her  [his  mother]  repeat  her  prayers,  is  said  to  have 
assured  her,  that  if  she  continued  thus  to  believe  and  to  pray,  she  might 
well  live  in  hopes  of  being  saved." 


Italian,  Spanish  and  Latin  literature,  was  acquainted  with  this 
passage.  He  nevertheless  altered  the  narrative,  relating  how 
Melanchthon's  "  aged  mother  came  to  him  "  after  he  had  "  lived 
long  in  the  world  and  seen  many  things,  and  caused  many- 
scandals  by  his  life."  He  translates  as  follows  the  Latin  words 
supposed  to  have  been  uttered  by  Melanchthon  :  "The  new 
religion  is  much  pleasanter,  but  the  old  one  is  much  safer."1 

Next  comes  the  Protestant  Adam.  The  latter  gives  a  plausible 
historical  setting  to  the  story  by  locating  it  during  the  time  of 
Melanchthon's  stay  at  Spires,  though  without  mentioning  that 
the  mother  was  then  at  death's  door.  "  When  asked  by  her," 
so  runs  his  account,  which  is  the  commonest  one,  "  what  she  was 
to  believe  of  the  controversies,  he  listened  to  the  prayers  [she 
was  in  the  habit  of  reciting]  and,  finding  nothing  superstitious 
in  them,  told  her  to  continue  to  believe  and  to  pray  as  heretofore 
and  not  be  disturbed  by  the  discussions  and  controversies."2 
Here  we  do  not  meet  the  sentence  Hcec  plausibilior,  ilia  securior. 
The  fact  that  Adam,  who  as  a  rule  is  careful  to  give  his  authorities, 
omits  to  do  so  here,  points  to  the  story  having  been  verbally 
transmitted  ;  for  it  is  hardly  likely  that  he,  as  a  Protestant, 
would  have  taken  over  the  statements  of  the  two  Catholic 
authorities  Albertinus  and  Raemond,  which  were  so  favourable 
to  Catholicism  and  so  unfavourable  to  Protestantism.  Probably, 
besides  the  Catholic  version  there  was  also  a  Protestant  one, 
which  would  explain  here  the  absence  of  the  sentence  ending 
with  "  securior."  Both  may  have  risen  at  the  time  of  the 
Diet  of  Spires,  where  Catholics  and  Protestants  alike  attended, 
supposing  that  the  visit  to  Bretten  took  place  at  that  time. 

All  things  considered  we  may  well  accept  the  statement  of  the 
"  Realenzyklopadie,"  that  the  story,  as  given  by  Adam,  apart 
from  the  time  it  occurred,  is  "not  unlikely,  though  it  cannot  be 
proved  with  certainty."  Taking  into  account  the  circumstances 
and  the  character  of  Melanchthon,  neither  the  incident  nor  his 
words  involve  any  improbability.  He  will  have  seen  that  his 
beloved  mother — whether  then  at  the  point  of  death  or  not — 
was  in  perfect  good  faith  ;  he  had  no  wish  to  plunge  her  into 
inward  struggles  and  disquiet  and  preferred  to  leave  her  happy 
in  her  convictions  ;  the  more  so  since,  in  her  presence  and  amid 
the  recollections  of  the  past,  his  mind  will  probably  have  travelled 
to  the  days  of  his  youth,  when  he  was  still  a  faithful  son  of  the 
Church.  He  had  never  forgotten  the  exhortation  given  by  his 
father,  nine  days  before  his  death,  to  his  family  "never  to  quit 
the  Church's  fold."3  The  exact  date  of  the  incident  (1524  or 
1529)  must  however  remain  doubtful.  N.  Miiller  in  his  work  on 
Melanchthon's  brother,  Jakob  Schwarzerd,  says  rightly :    "  No- 

1  "  Des  Teutschen  .  .  .  Rekreation,"  Munich,  1612,  4,  p.  143.  The 
author,  who  died  in  1620,  is  no  authority  on  historical  matters  beyond 
his  own  times  and  surroundings. 

2  "  Vitse  theologorum,"  p.  333. 

3  "RE.  f.  prot.  Th.,"  3,  Art.  "Melanchthon,"  p.  531,  with  reference 
to  Melanchthon's  "  Postille,"  2,  p.  477. 


thing  obliges  us  to  place  the  conversation  between  Melanchthon 
and  his  mother — assuming  it  to  be  historical — in  1529,  for  it  may 
equally  well  have  taken  place  in  1524."1 

Two  unsupported  stories  connected  with  Melanchthon's 
Augsburg  Confession  must  also  be  mentioned  here.  The 
twofold  statement,  frequently  repeated  down  to  the  present 
day,  takes  the  following  shape  in  a  recent  historical  work 
by  a  Protestant  theologian  :  "  When  the  Confession  was 
read  out,  the  Bishop  of  Augsburg,  Christoph  von  Stadion, 
declared,  '  What  has  just  been  read  here  is  the  pure,  unvar- 
nished truth  ' ;  Eck  too  had  to  admit  to  the  Duke  of  Bavaria, 
that  he  might  indeed  be  able  to  refute  this  work  from  the 
Fathers  of  the  Church,  but  certainly  not  from  Scripture." 
So  convincing  and  triumphant  was  Melanchthon's  attitude 
at  the  Diet  of  Augsburg. 

The  information  concerning  Stadion  is  found  only  in  the 
late,  Protestant  history  of  the  Diet  of  Augsburg  written  by 
George  Ccelestinus  and  published  in  1577  at  Frankfurt  ;  here 
moreover  the  story  differs  slightly,  relating,  that,  during  the 
negotiations  on  the  Confession  on  Aug.  6,  Stadion  declared  : 
"  It  was  plain  that  those  who  inclined  to  the  Lutheran  views 
had,  so  far,  not  infringed  or  overthrown  a  single  article  of  the 
faith  by  what  they  had  put  forward  in  defence  of  their  views."2 
Any  decisive  advocacy  of  the  Catholic  cause  was  of  course  not 
to  be  expected  from  this  bishop,  in  view  of  his  general  bearing. 
A  good  pupil  of  Erasmus,  he  had  made  the  latter's  reforming 
ideas  his  own.  He  was  in  favour  of  priestly  marriage,  and  was 
inclined  to  think  that  Christ  had  not  instituted  auricular  con- 
fession. There  is,  however,  no  proof  that  he  went  so  far  in  the 
direction  of  the  innovations  as  actually  to  approve  the  Lutheran 
teaching.  It  is  true  that  the  words  quoted,  even  if  really  his, 
do  not  assert  this  ;  it  was  one  thing  to  say  that  no  article  of  the 
faith  had  been  infringed  by  the  Confession  or  by  what  had  been 
urged  in  vindication  of  Lutheranism,  and  quite  another  to  say 
that  the  Confession  was  nothing  but  the  pure,  unvarnished  truth. 
At  any  rate,  in  the  one  form  this  statement  of  Stadion's  is  not 
vouched  for  by  any  other  authority  before  Ccelestinus  and,  in 
the  other,  lacks  any  proof  whatever.  F.  W.  Schirrmacher,  who 
relates  the  incident  in  his  "  Brief  en  und  Akten  zur  Ges- 
chichte  des  Reichstags  zu  Augsburg  "  on  the  authority  of  Cceles- 
tinus, admits  that  "its  source  is  unknown."3  Moreover  an 
historian,  who  some  years  ago  examined  into  Stadion's  attitude 
at  Augsburg,  pointed  out,  that,  in  view  of  the  further  circum- 

1  Above,  p.  270,  n.  5,  p.  41. 

2  "  Historia  comitiorum  a.  1530  Augustae  celebratorum,"  3,  p.  20. 
8  Gotha,  1876,  p.  191. 

V. — T 


stances  related  by  Ccelestinus,  the  story  "  sounds  a  little  fabu- 
lous."1 He  tells  us  how  on  the  same  occasion  the  bishops  of 
Salzburg  and  Augsburg  fell  foul  of  one  another,  the  former,  in 
his  anger  at  Stadion's  behaviour,  even  going  so  far  as  to  charge 
the  latter  before  the  whole  assembly  with  immorality  in  his 
private  life.  All  this,  told  at  great  length  and  without  mention 
of  any  authority,  far  from  impressing  us  as  historically  accurate, 
appears  at  best  as  an  exaggerated  hearsay  account  of  some 
incident  of  which  the  truth  is  no  longer  known. 

As  for  what  Johann  Eck  is  stated  to  have  said,  viz.  that  he 
could  refute  Melanchthon's  Confession  from  the  Fathers  but  not 
from  the  Bible,  no  proof  whatever  of  the  statement  is  forthcoming. 
The  oldest  mention  of  it  merely  retails  a  piece  of  vague  gossip, 
which  may  well  have  gone  the  rounds  in  Lutheran  circles.  It  is 
met  with  in  Spalatin's  Notes  and  runs  :  "  It  is  said  "  that  Eck, 
referring  to  the  whole  doctrine  of  Melanchthon  and  Luther,  told 
Duke  William  :  "I  would  not  mind  undertaking  to  refute  it 
from  the  Fathers,  but  not  from  Scripture."2  It  is  true  these 
notes  go  back  as  far  as  the  Diet  of  Augsburg,  but  they  notoriously 
contain  much  that  is  false  or  uncertain,  and  often  record  mere 
unauthenticated  rumours.  Neither  Melanchthon  nor  Luther 
ever  dared  to  appeal  to  such  an  admission  on  the  part  of  their 
opponent,  though  it  would  certainly  have  been  of  the  utmost 
advantage  to  them  to  have  done  so. 

Not  only  is  no  proof  alleged  in  support  of  the  saying,  but  it 
is  in  utter  contradiction  with  Eck's  whole  mode  of  procedure, 
which  was  always  to  attack  the  statements  of  his  opponents, 
first  with  Scripture  and  then  with  the  tradition  of  the  Fathers. 
This  is  the  case  with  the  "  Confutaiio  confessionis,"  etc.,  aimed  at 
Melanchthon's  Confession,  in  the  preparation  of  which  Eck  had 
the  largest  share  and  which  he  presented  at  the  Diet  of  Augsburg. 

According  to  his  own  striking  account  of  what  happened  at 
the  religious  conference  of  Ratisbon  in  1541,  it  was  to  his  habitual 
and  triumphant  use  of  biblical  arguments  against  Melanchthon's 
theses  that  Eck  appealed  in  the  words  he  addressed  to  Bucer 
his  chief  opponent :  "  Hearken,  you  apostate,  does  not  Eck  use 
the  language  of  the  Bible  and  the  Fathers  ?  Why  don't  you  reply 
to  his  writings  on  the  primacy  of  Peter,  on  penance,  on  the  Sacri- 
fice of  the  Mass,  and  on  Purgatory  ?  "  etc.3 

What  also  weighs  strongly  against  the  tale  is  the  fact  that  a 
charge  of  a  quite  similar  nature  had  been  brought  against  Eck 
ten  years  before  the  Diet  of  Augsburg  by  an  opponent,  who 
assailed  him  with  false  and  malicious  accusations.  What 
Protestant  fable  came  wantonly  to  connect  with  Melanchthon's 
"  Confession  "  had  already,  in  1520,  been  charged  against  the 
Ingolstadt    theologian    by    the    author    of    "  Eccius   dedolatus." 

1  J.  B.  Hablitzel,  "  Liter.  Beil.  zur  Augsburger  Postztng.,"  1905, 
No.  40  f. 

2  Printed  in  the  Jena  edition  of  Luther's  German  works,  5, 
1557,  p.  41. 

3  "  Apologia,"  Ingolstadii,  1542,  p.  clii. 

DEVIL   LORE  275 

There  he  is  told,  that,  in  his  view,  one  had  perforce  (on  account 
of  the  Bible)  to  agree  with  Luther  secretly,  though,  publicly,  he 
had  to  be  opposed.1 

Theodore  Wiedemann,  who  wrote  a  Life  of  Eck  and  who  at 
least  hints  at  the  objection  just  made,  was  justified  in  concluding 
with  the  query  :  "  Is  it  not  high  time  to  say  good-bye  to  this 
historic  lie  ?  "2  When,  as  late  as  1906,  the  story  was  once 
more  burnished  up  by  a  writer  of  note,  N.  Paulus,  writing  in  the 
" Historisches  Jahrbuch,"  could  well  say:  "Eck's  alleged  utter- 
ance was  long  ago  proved  to  be  quite  unhistorical."3 

4.   Demonology  and  Demonomania 

"  Come  O  Lord  Jesus,  Amen  !  The  breath  of  Thy  mouth 
dismays  the  diabolical  gainsayer."  "  Satan's  hate  is  all  too 

Oh,  that  the  devil's  gaping  jaws  were  crushed  by  the 
blessed  seed  of  the  woman  !5  How  little  is  left  for  God.6 
"  The  remainder  is  swallowed  by  Satan  who  is  the  Prince  of 
this  world,  surely  an  inscrutable  decree  of  Eternal  Wisdom."7 
"  Prodigies  everywhere  daily  manifest  the  power  of  the 
devil !  "  8 

Against  such  a  devil's  world,  as  Luther  descried,  what  can 
help  save  the  approaching  "  end  of  all  "  ? 

"  The  kingdom  of  God  is  being  laid  waste  by  Turk  and 
Jew  and  Pope,"  the  chosen  tools  of  Satan;  but  "greater 
is  He  Who  reigns  in  us  than  he  who  rules  the  world ; 
the  devil  shall  be  under  Christ  to  all  eternity."9  "The 
present  rage  of  the  devil  only  reveals  God's  future  wrath 
against  mankind,  who  are  so  ungrateful  for  the  Evangel."10 
"  We  cannot  but  live  in  this  devil's  kingdom  which  sur- 
rounds us  "  ; 13-    "  but  even  with  our  last  breath  we  must 

1  Willibald  Pirkheimer,  who  was  then  on  Luther's  side,  is  usually 
regarded  as  the  author  of  this  screed  published  under  the  pseudonym 
of  J.  F.  Cottalambergius.  Like  some  others,  K.  Bauer  ("  Schriften  des 
Vereins  f.  RG.,"  No.  100,  1910,  p.  272)  rejects  his  authorship.  The 
passage  in  question  appears  in  Booking's  edition,  "  Hutteni  opp.,"  4, 
1860,  p.  533. 

2  "  Johannes  Eck,"  1865,  p.  275  f.  3  1906,  p.  885. 

4  To  Melanchthon,  Dec.  7,  1540,  "  Brief wechsel,"  13,  p.  227. 

5  To  Melanchthon,  Nov.  21,  1540,  ib.,  p.  215. 

6  To  Link,  Sep.  8,  1541,  "  Briefe,"  5,  p.  399. 

7  To  Jonas,  Jan.  23,  1542,  ib.,  p.  429. 

8  To  Lauterbach,  April  2,  1543,  ib.,  pp.  551,  552. 

9  To  the  Evangelical  Brethren  at  Venice,  June  13,  1543,  ib.,  p.  569. 

10  To  Lauterbach,  July  25,  1542,  ib.,  p.  487  f. 

11  To  Cordatus,  Dec.  3,  1544,  ib.,  p.  702. 


fight  against  the  monsters  of  Satan."1  Let  the  Papists, 
whose  glory  is  mere  "  devil's  filth,"  rejoice  in  their  suc- 
cesses.2 As  little  heed  is  to  be  paid  to  them  as  to  the 
preachers  of  the  Evangel  who  have  gone  astray  in  doc- 
trine, like  Agricola  and  Schwenckfeld ;  they  calmly  "  go  their 
way  to  Satan  to  whom  indeed  they  belong  "  ;3  "  they  are 
senseless  fools,  possessed  of  the  devil."  The  devil  "  spues 
and  ructates  "  his  writings  through  them  ;  this  is  the  devil 
of  heresy  against  whom  solemnly  launch  the  malediction  : 
"  God's  curse  be  upon  thee,  Satan  !  The  spirit  that  sum- 
moned thee  be  with  thee  unto  destruction  !  "4 

Luther's  letters  during  his  later  years  are  crammed  with 
things  of  this  sort. 

The  thought  of  the  devil  and  his  far-spread  sphere  of 
action,  to  which  Luther  had  long  been  addicted,  assumes 
in  his  mind  as  time  goes  on  a  more  serious  and  gloomy 
shape,  though  he  continues  often  enough  to  refer  to  the 
Divine  protection  promised  against  the  powers  of  darkness 
and  to  the  final  victory  of  Christ. 

In  his  wrong  idea  of  the  devil  Luther  was  by  no  means 
without  precursors.  On  the  contrary,  in  the  Middle  Ages 
exaggerations  had  long  prevailed  on  this  subject,  not  only 
among  the  people  but  even  among  the  best-known  writers  ; 
on  the  very  eve  of  Luther's  coming  forward  they  formed  no 
small  part  of  the  disorders  in  the  ecclesiastical  life  of  the 
people.  Had  people  been  content  with  the  sober  teaching 
of  Holy  Scripture  and  of  the  Church  on  the  action  of  the 
devil,  the  faithful  would  have  been  preserved  from  many 
errors.  As  it  was,  however,  the  vivid  imagination  of  laity 
and  clergy  led  them  to  read  much  into  the  revealed  doctrine 
that  was  not  really  in  it ;  witness,  for  instance,  the  startling 
details  they  found  in  the  words  of  St.  Paul  (Eph.  vi.  12) : 
"  For  our  wrestling  is  not  against  flesh  and  blood  :  but 
against  principalities  and  powers,  against  the  rulers  of  the 
world  of  this  darkness,  against  the  spirits  of  wickedness  in 
the  high  places."     Great  abuses  had  gradually  crept  into 

1  To  Probst,  Jan.  17  (the  year  of  his  death),  1546,  ib.,  p.  778. 

2  To  Jonas,  Sep.  30,  1543,  ib.,  p.  591  :  "  quorum  glorias  pro  stercorc 
diaboli  habeo." 

3  To  Justus  Menius,  Jan.  10,  1542,  "  Briefe,"  5,  p.  426,  on  "  Master 
Grickel,"  i.e.  Agricola. 

4  To  Caspar  Schwenckfeld's  messenger  (1543),  "  Briefe,"  5,  p.  614  : 
"  Increpet  Dominus  in  te,  Satan"  etc. 


tiie  use  of  the  blessings  and  exorcisms  of  the  Church,  more 
particularly  in  the  case  of  supposed  sorcery.  Unfortunately, 
too,  the  beliefs  and  practices  common  among  the  people 
received  much  too  ready  support  from  persons  of  high  stand- 
ing in  the  Church.  The  supposition,  which  in  itself  had  the 
sanction  of  tradition,  that  intercourse  with  the  devil  was 
possible,  grew  into  the  fantastic  persuasion  that  witches 
were  lurking  everywhere,  and  required  to  have  their  mali- 
cious action  checked  by  the  authority  of  Church  and  State. 
That  unfortunate  book,  "The  Witches'  Hammer,"  which 
Institoris  and  Sprenger  published  in  1487,  made  these  de- 
lusions fashionable  in  circles  which  so  far  had  been  but  little 
affected  by  them,  though  the  authors'  purpose,  viz.  to 
stamp  out  the  witches,  was  not  achieved. 

It  is  clear  that  at  home  in  Saxony,  and  in  his  own  family, 
Luther  had  lived  in  an  atmosphere  where  the  belief  in  spirits 
and  the  harm  wrought  by  the  devil  was  very  strong  ;  miners 
are  credited  with  being  partial  to  such  gloomy  fancies  owing 
to  the  nature  of  their  dangerous  work  in  the  mysterious 
bowels  of  the  earth.  As  a  young  monk  he  had  fancied  he 
heard  the  devil  creating  an  uproar  nightly  in  the  convent, 
and  the  state  of  excitement  in  which  he  lived  and  which 
accompanied  him  ever  afterwards  was  but  little  calculated 
to  free  him  from  the  prejudices  of  the  age  concerning  the 
devil's  power.  His  earlier  sermons,  for  instance  those  to  be 
mentioned  below  on  the  Ten  Commandments,  contain  much 
that  is  frankly  superstitious,  though  this  must  be  set  down 
in  great  part  to  the  beliefs  already  in  vogue  and  above 
which  he  failed  to  rise.  Had  Luther  really  wished  to  play 
the  part  of  a  reformer  of  the  ecclesiastical  life  of  his  day,  he 
would  have  found  here  a  wide  field  for  useful  labour.  In 
point  of  fact,  however,  he  only  made  bad  worse.  His  lively 
descriptions  and  the  weight  of  his  authority  merely  served 
to  strengthen  the  current  delusions  among  those  who  looked 
to  him.  Before  him  no  one  had  ever  presented  these  things 
to  the  people  with  such  attractive  wealth  of  detail,  no  one 
had  brought  the  weight  of  his  personality  so  strongly  to 
bear  upon  his  readers  and  so  urgently  preached  to  them  on 
how  to  deal  with  the  spirits  of  evil. 

Among  non-Catholics  it  has  been  too  usual  to  lay  the 
whole  blame  on  the  Middle  Ages  and  the  later  Catholic 
period.    They  do  not  realise  how  greatly  Luther's  influence 


counted  in  the  demonology  and  demonomania  of  the  ensuing 
years.  Yet  Luther's  views  and  practice  show  plainly  enough, 
that  it  was  not  merely  the  Catholic  ages  before  his  day  that 
were  dishonoured  with  such  delusions  concerning  the  devil, 
and  that  it  was  not  the  Catholics  alone,  of  his  time  and  the 
following  decades,  who  were  responsible  for  the  devil-craze 
and  the  bloody  persecutions  of  the  witches  in  those  dark 
days  of  German  history  in  the  17th  century.1 

The  Mischief  Wrought  by  the  Devil 

Luther's  views  agree  in  so  far  with  the  actual  teaching  of 
the  olden  Church,  that  he  regards  the  devils  as  fallen  angels 
condemned  to  eternal  reprobation,  who  oppose  the  aims  of 
God  for  the  salvation  of  the  world  and  the  spiritual  and 
temporal  welfare  of  mankind.  "  The  devil  undoes  the 
works  of  God,"  so  he  says,  adding,  however,  in  striking  con- 
sonance with  the  teaching  of  the  Church  and  to  emphasise 
the  devil's  powerlessness,  "  but  Christ  undoes  the  devil's 
works  ;  He,  the  seed  [of  the  woman]  and  the  serpent  are 
ever  at  daggers  drawn."2  But  Luther  goes  further,  and 
depicts  in  glaring  and  extravagant  colours  the  harm  which 
the  devil  can  bring  about.  He  declares  he  himself  had  had 
a  taste  of  how  wrathful  and  mighty  a  foe  the  devil  is  ;  this 
he  had  learned  in  the  inward  warfare  he  was  compelled  to 
wage  against  Satan.  He  was  convinced  that,  at  the  Wart- 
burg,  and  also  later,  he  had  repeatedly  to  witness  the  sinister 
manifestations  of  the  Evil  One's  malignant  power. 

Hence  in  his  Church-postils,  home-postils  and  Catechism, 
to  mention  only  these,  he  gives  full  vent  to  his  opinions  on 
the  hostility  and  might  of  Satan. 

In  the  Larger  Catechism  of  1529, 3  "when  enumerating  the 
evils  caused  by  the  devil,  he  tells  of  how  he  "breaks  many  a 
man's  neck,  drives  others  out  of  their  mind  or  drowns  them  in 
the  water  "  ;4  how  he  "  stirs  up  strife  and  brings  murder,  sedition 
and  war,  item  causes  hail  and  tempests,  destroying  the  corn  and  the 
cattle,  and  poisoning  the  air,"  etc.  ;5  among  those  who  break  the 

1  Cp.  for  what  follows  N.  Paulus,  "  Hexenwahn  und  Hexenprozess 
vornehmlich  im  16.  Jahrh.,"  1910,  where  not  only  Luther's  (pp.  20  ff., 
48  ff.)  but  also  the  Zwinglians'  and  Calvinists'  attitude  to  the  matter 
is  dealt  with. 

2  Mathesius,  "  Tischreden,"  p.  305. 

3  "  Werke,"  Weim.  ed.,  30,  1,  p.  123  ff.  ;  Erl.  ed.,  21,  p.  26  ff.  ; 
cp.  p.  127  =  28  ff.  4  lb.,  p.  211  =  127.  5  lb.,  p.  205  =  121. 

DEVIL'S   POWER   FOR   EVIL        279 

first  commandment  are  all  "  who  make  a  compact  with  the  devil 
that  he  may  give  them  enough  money,  help  them  in  their  love- 
affairs,  preserve  their  cattle,  bring  back  lost  property,  etc.,  like- 
wise all  sorcerers  and  magicians."1 

In  his  home-postils  he  practically  makes  it  one  of  the  chief 
dogmas  of  the  faith,  that  all  temporal  misfortune  hails  from  the 
devil  ;  "  the  heathen  "  alone  know  this  not ;  "  but  do  you  learn 
to  say  :  This  is  the  work  of  the  hateful  devil."  "  The  devil's  bow 
is  always  bent  and  his  musket  always  primed,  and  we  are  his 
target  ;  at  us  he  aims,  smiting  us  with  pestilence,  '  Franzosen  ' 
[venereal  disease],  war,  fire,  hail  and  cloudburst."  "  It  is  also 
certain  that  wherever  we  be  there  too  is  a  great  crowd  of  demons 
who  lie  in  wait  for  us,  would  gladly  affright  us,  do  us  harm,  and, 
were  it  possible,  fall  upon  us  with  sword  and  long  spear.  Against 
these  are  pitted  the  holy  angels  who  stand  up  in  our  defence."2 

The  devil,  so  he  teaches  in  his  Church-postils,  a  new  edition  of 
which  he  brought  out  in  1543  towards  the  end  of  his  life,  could 
either  of  himself  or  by  the  agency  of  others  "  raise  storms, 
shoot  people,  lame  and  wither  limbs,  harrow  children  in  the 
cradle,  bewitch  men's  members,  etc."3  Thanks  to  him,  "those 
who  ply  the  magic  art  are  able  to  give  to  things  a  shape  other  than 
their  own?  so  that  what  in  reality  is  a  man  looks  like  an  ox  or  a 
cow  ;  they  can  make  people  to  fall  in  love,  or  to  bawd,  and  do 
many  other  devilish  deeds."4 

How  accustomed  he  was  to  enlarge  on  this  favourite  subject 
in  his  addresses  to  the  people  is  plain  from  a  sermon  delivered 
at  the  Coburg  in  1530,  which  he  sent  to  the  press  the  following 
year  :  "  The  devil  sends  plagues,  famines,  worry  and  war, 
murder,  etc.  Whose  fault  is  it  that  one  man  breaks  a  leg,  another 
is  drowned,  and  a  third  commits  murder  ?  Surely  the  devil's 
alone.  This  we  see  with  our  own  eyes  and  touch  with  our  hands." 
"  The  Christian  ought  to  know  that  he  sits  in  the  midst  of  demons 
and  that  the  devil  is  closer  to  him  than  his  coat  or  his  shirt,  nay, 
even  than  his  skin,  that  he  is  all  around  us  and  that  we  must 
ever  be  at  grips  with  him  and  fighting  him."  In  these  words  there 
is  already  an  echo  of  his  fancied  personal  experiences,  particu- 
larly of  his  inward  struggles  at  the  time  of  the  dreaded  Diet  of 
Augsburg,  to  which  he  actually  alludes  in  this  sermon  ;  the  sub- 
jective element  comes  out  still  more  strongly  when  he  proceeds 
in  his  half -jesting  way  :  "  The  devil  is  more  at  home  in  Holy 
Scripture  than  Paris,  Cologne  and  all  the  godless  make-believes, 
however  learned  they  may  be.  Whoever  attempts  to  dispute 
with  him  will  assuredly  be  pitched  on  the  ash  heap,  and  when  it 
comes  to  a  trial  of  strength,  there  too  he  wins  the  day  ;  in  one 
hour  he  could  do  to  death  all  the  Turks,  Emperors,  Kings  and 

1  lb.,  p.  134  =  36. 

2  lb.,  Erl.  ed.,  32,  p.  477  f.,  in  the  first  Sermon  on  the  Angels. 

3  lb.,  Weim.  ed.,  10,  1,  1,  p.  590  f.  ;  Erl.  ed.,  102,  p.  359.  In  the 
editions  from  1522  to  1540  the  word  "  conjugal  "  is  inserted  before 
"  members." 

*  lb. 

280         LUTHER  THE  REFORMER 

Princes."1  "  Children  should  be  taught  at  an  early  age  to  fear 
the  dangers  arising  from  the  devil ;  they  should  be  told  :  '  Darling, 
don't  swear,  etc.  ;  the  devil  is  close  beside  you,  and  if  you  do  he 
may  throw  you  into  the  water  or  bring  down  some  other  mis- 
fortune upon  you.'  "2  It  is  true  that  he  also  says  children  must 
be  taught  that,  by  God's  command,  their  guardian  angel  is  ever 
ready  to  assist  them  against  the  devil ;  '*  God  wills  that  he  shall 
watch  over  you  so  that  when  the  devil  tries  to  cast  you  into  the 
water  or  to  affright  you  in  your  sleep,  he  may  prevent  him." 
Still  one  may  fairly  question  the  educational  value  of  such  a  fear 
of  the  devil.  Taking  into  account  the  pliant  character  of  most 
children  and  their  susceptibility  to  fear,  Luther  was  hardly 
justified  in  expecting  that :  "If  children  are  treated  in  this  way 
from  their  youth  they  will  grow  up  into  fine  men  and  women." 

According  to  an  odd-sounding  utterance  of  Luther's,  every 
bishop  who  attended  the  Diet  of  Augsburg  brought  as  many 
devils  to  oppose  him  "as  a  dog  has  fleas  on  its  back  on  Mid- 
summer Day."3  Had  the  devil  succeeded  in  his  attempt  there, 
"  the  next  thing  would  have  been  that  he  would  have  committed 
murder,"4  but  the  angels  dispatched  by  God  had  shielded  him 
and  the  Evangel. 

When  a  fire  devastated  that  part  of  Wittenberg  yhich  lay 
beyond  the  Castle  gate,  Luther  was  quite  overwhelmed  ;  watch- 
ing the  conflagration  he  assured  the  people  that,  "it  was  the 
devil's  work."  With  his  eyes  full  of  tears  he  besought  them  to 
"  quench  it  with  the  help  of  God  and  His  holy  angels."  A  little 
later  he  exhorted  the  people  in  a  sermon  to  withstand  by  prayer 
the  work  of  the  devil  manifested  in  such  fires.  One  of  his  pupils, 
Sebastian  Froschel,  recalled  the  incident  in  a  sermon  on  the 
feast  of  St.  Michael.  After  the  example  and  words  of  the  "  late 
Dr.  Martin,"  he  declares,  "  the  devil's  breath  is  so  hot  and 
poisonous  that  it  can  even  infect  the  air  and  set  it  on  fire,  so  that 
cities,  land  and  people  are  poisoned  and  inflamed,  for  instance 
by  the  plague  and  other  even  more  virulent  diseases.  .  .  .  The 
devil  is  in  and  behind  the  flame  which  he  fans  to  make  it  spread," 
etc.6  This  tallies  with  what  Luther,  when  on  a  journey,  wrote 
in  later  years  to  Catherine  Bora  of  the  fires  which  were  occurring  : 
"  The  devil  himself  has  come  forth  possessed  with  new  and  worse 
demons  ;  he  causes  fires  and  does  damage  that  is  dreadful  to 
behold."  The  writer  instances  the  forest  fires  then  raging  (in 
July)  in  Thuringia  and  at  Werda,  and  concludes  :  "  Tell  them  to 
pray  against  the  troublesome  Satan  who  is  seeking  us  out."6 

Madness,  in  Luther's  view,  is  in  every  case  due  to  the  devil ; 
"what  is  outside  reason  is  simply  Satanic."7     In  a  long  letter 

1  lb.,  32,  p.  112  fT.  =  182,  p.  64  ff.  2  lb.,  p.  120  =  76. 

3  lb.,  34,  2,  p.  263  f.  =  192,  p.  75.  4  lb.,  32,  p.  114=  182,  p.  68. 

5  "  Drey  Sermon,  Von  den  Heiligen  Engeln,  Vom  Teufel,  Von  der 
Menschen  Seele,"  Witteberg,  1563.  In  the  sermon  "  Vom  Teufel." 
See  N.  Paulus,  "  Augsburger  Postztng.,"  1903,  May  8. 

6  July  26,  1540,  "  Brief wechsel,"  13,  p.  147. 

7  Mathesius,  "  Tischreden,"  ed.  Kroker,  p.  331. 

DEVIL'S  POWER  FOR  EVIL       281 

to  his  friend  Link,  in  1528,  dealing  with  a  case  raised,  he  proves 
that  mad  people  must  be  regarded  "  as  teased  or  possessed  by 
the  devil."  "  Medical  men  who  are  unversed  in  theology  know 
not  how  great  is  the  strength  and  power  of  the  devil  "  ;  but, 
against  their  natural  explanations,  we  can  set,  first,  Holy  Scrip- 
ture (Luke  xiii.  16  ;  Acts  x.  38)  ;  secondly,  experience,  which 
proves  that  the  devil  causes  deafness,  dumbness,  lameness  and 
fever  ;  thirdly,  the  fact  that  he  can  even  "  fill  men's  minds  with 
thoughts  of  adultery,  murder,  robbery  and  all  other  evil  lusts  "  ; 
all  the  more  easily  then  was  he  able  to  confuse  the  mental  powers. 1 
In  the  case  of  those  possessed,  the  devil,  according  to  Luther, 
either  usurps  the  place  of  the  soul,  or  lives  side  by  side  with  it, 
ruling  such  unhappy  people  as  the  soul  does  the  body.2 

Thus  it  is  the  devil  alone  who  is  at  work  in  those  who  commit 
suicide,  for  the  death  a  man  fancies  he  inflicts  on  himself  is 
nothing  but  the  "  devil's  work  "  ;3  the  devil  simply  hoodwinks 
him  and  others  who  see  him.  To  Frederick  Myconius  he  wrote, 
in  1544  :  "  It  is  my  habit  to  esteem  such  a  one  as  killed  '  simpli- 
citer  et  immediate  '  by  the  devil,  just  as  a  traveller  might  be  by 
highwaymen.  ...  I  think  we  must  stick  to  the  belief  that  the 
devil  deceives  such  a  man  and  makes  him  fancy  that  he  is  doing 
something  quite  different,  for  instance  praying,  or  something  of 
the  sort."4  In  the  same  sense  he  wrote  to  Anton  Lauterbach,  in 
1542,  when  the  latter  informed  him  of  three  men  who  had  hanged 
themselves  :  "  Satan,  with  God's  leave,  perpetrates  such  abomin- 
ations in  the  midst  of  our  congregation.  .  .  .  He  is  the  prince 
of  this  world  who  in  mockery  deludes  us  into  fancying  that  those 
men  hanged  themselves,  whereas  it  was  he  who  killed  them  By 
the  images  he  brought  before  their  mind,  he  made  them  think 
that  they  were  killing  themselves  " — a  statement  at  variance 
with  the  one  last  given.5  Whereas  in  this  letter  he  suggests  that 
the  people  should  be  told  of  such  cases  from  the  pulpit  so  that 
they  may  not  despise  the  "  devil's  power  from  a  mistaken  sense 
of  security,"  previously,  in  conversation  he  had  declared,  that 
it  ought  not  to  be  admitted  publicly  that  such  persons  could  not 
be  damned  not  having  been  masters  of  themselves  :    "  They  do 

1  On  July  14,  1528,  "  Brief wechsel,"  6,  p.  299.  Cp.  Mathesius,  ib., 
p.  179  :  "  Nothing  is  more  certain  than  that  the  insane  are  not  with- 
out their  devils  ;  these  make  them  madder  ;  the  devil  knows  those 
who  are  of  a  melancholy  turn,  and  of  this  tool  he  makes  use."  Thus 
Luther  in  1540. 

2  "  Sic  informat  [diabolus]  animam  et  corpus,  ut  obsessi  nihil  audiant, 
videant,  sentiant  ;  sed  ipse  est  Us  pro  anima."  Mathesius,  ib.,  p.  198 
(in  1540).  Cp.  also  "  Werke,"  Erl.  ed.,  60,  p.  13,  with  reference  to  1  Cor. 
v.  5.  The  passage  occurs  in  the  Table-Talk,  ch.  24,  No.  68.  Cp.  Erl. 
ed.,  vol.  59,  p.  289  to  vol.  60,  p.  75.  This  chapter  is  followed  by  others 
on  similar  subjects.  Demonology  occupies  altogether  a  very  large 
place.     Ch.  59,  "  On  the  Angels,"  comprises  hardly  four  pages. 

3  Mathesius,  "  Tischreden,"  p.  326  (in  1543). 

4  Dec.  1,  1544,  "  Briefe,"  ed.  De  Wette,  5,  p.  699  f. 

5  July  25,  1542  :  "  quum  ipse  occiderit  eos  et  imaginatione  animis 
impre8sa  coegerit  eos  putare,  quod  se  ipsos  suspender ent." 


not  commit  this  wilfully,  but  are  impelled  to  it  by  the  devil.  .  .  . 
But  the  people  must  not  be  told  this."1  Speaking  of  a  woman 
who  was  sorely  tempted  and  worried,  he  said  to  his  friends,  in 
1543  :  "  Even  should  she  hang  herself  or  drown  herself  through 
it,  it  can  do  her  no  harm  ;  it  is  just  as  though  it  all  happened  in 
a  dream."  The  source  of  this  woman's  distress  was  her  low 
spirits  and  religious  doubts.2 

On  all  that  the  Devil  is  able  to  do 

Many,  in  Luther's  opinion,  had  been  snatched  off  alive 
by  the  devil,  particularly  when  they  had  made  a  compact 
or  had  dealings  with  him,  or  had  given  themselves  up  to 

For  instance,  he  had  carried  off  Pfeifer  of  Miihlberg,  not  far 
from  Erfurt,  and  also  another  man  of  the  same  name  at  Eisenach  ; 
indeed,  the  devil  had  fetched  the  latter  away  in  spite  of  his  being 
watched  by  the  preacher  Justus  Menius  and  "  many  of  his 
clergymen,"  and  though  "  doors  and  windows  had  been  shut  so 
as  to  prevent  his  being  carried  away  "  ;  the  devil,  however, 
broke  away  some  tiles  "  round  the  stove  "  and  thus  got  in  ; 
finally  he  slew  his  victim  "  not  far  from  the  town  in  a  hazel 
thicket."3  Needless  to  say  it  is  a  great  crime  to  bargain  with  the 
devil.4  This  Dr.  Eck  had  done  and  likewise  the  Elector  Joachim  I 
of  Brandenburg  (fl535),  who  wanted  to  live  another  fifteen  years  ; 
this,  however,  the  devil  did  not  allow. 5  Amsdorf  too  was  dragged 
into  the  diabolical  affair  ;  one  night  at  an  inn  two  dead  men 
appeared  to  him,  thanks  to  some  Satanic  art,"  and  compelled 
him  to  draw  up  a  document  in  writing  and  hand  it  over  to 
Joachim.     Two  spirits  assisted  on  the  occasion,  bearing  candles.6 

During  battles  the  devil  is  able  to  carry  men  off  more  easily, 
but  then  the  angels  also  kill  by  Divine  command,  as  the  Old 
Testament  bears  witness,  for  there  "  one  angel  could  cause  the 
death  of  many  persons."7  In  war  the  devil  is  at  work  and  makes 
use  of  the  newest  weapons  "  which  indeed  are  Satan's  own  inven- 
tion," for  these  cannon  "  send  men  flying  into  the  air  "  and  that 

1  Schlaginhaufen,  "  Aufzeichn.,"  p.  59.  Mathesius,  "  Aufzeichn.," 
p.  198. 

2  Mathesius,  ib.    Cp.  "  Werke,"  Erl.  ed.,  21,  p.  127. 

3  "  Werke,"  Erl.  ed.,  60,  p.  24  ;   cp.  pp.  25,  27. 

4  Mathesius,  "  Tischreden,"  p.  269  ;    "  Aufzeichn.,"  p.  300. 

5  Mathesius,  in  both  the  passages  quoted.  Cp.  Lauterbach,  "  Tage- 
buch,"  p.  105  (1538) :  "  habuit  fcedus  cum  Sathana  ipse  et  pater  eius,  et 
foedissima  scortatione  occubuit  securissimey 

6  "  Colloq.,"  ed.  Bindseil,  1,  p.  207,  under  the  heading  "  Spectra." 
In  the  same  volume  pp.  218-242  treat  ,of  the  devil  under  the  heading 
"  Diabolus,  illius  natura,  conatus,  insidice,  figura,  expulsio."  In  the 
second  volume  the  ch.  on  "  tentationes"  pp.  287-320,  and,  in  the  third, 
that  on  "  fascinationes  et  incantationes"  pp.  9-14,  are  important. 

7  Mathesius,  "Tischreden,"  p.  224  f.  (1540). 

DEVIL'S   POWER   FOR   EVIL        283 

"is  the  end  of  all  man's  strength."1  It  is  also  the  devil  who 
guides  the  sleep-walkers  "  so  that  they  do  everything  as  though 
wide  awake,"  "  but  still  there  is  something  wanting  and  some 
defect  apparent."2 

Elsewhere  too  Luther  discerns  the  work  of  the  devil  ;  for 
instance,  when  Satan  sends  a  number  of  strange  caterpillars  into 
his  garden,3  pilfers  things,  hampers  the  cattle  and  damages  the 
stalls4  and  interferes  with  the  preparation  of  the  cheese  and 
milk.5  "  Every  tree  has  its  lurking  demon.6  You  can  see  how, 
to  your  damage,  Satan  knocks  down  walls  and  palings  that 
already  totter  ;7  he  also  throws  you  down  the  stairs  so  as  to  make 
a  cripple  of  you.8 

In  cases  of  illness  it  is  the  devil  who  enables  the  Jews  to  be  so 
successful  in  effecting  cures,  more  particularly  in  the  case  of  the 
"  great  and  those  of  high  standing  "  ;9  on  the  other  hand  he  is 
also  able  maliciously  to  hinder  the  good  effect  of  any  medicine, 
as  Luther  himself  had  experienced  when  he  lay  sick  in  1537.  He 
can  alter  every  medicine  or  medicament  in  the  boxes,  so  that 
what  has  served  its  purpose  well  once  or  twice  no  longer  works 
at  all  ;  "  so  powerful  is  the  devil."10  Luther,  as  his  pupils  bear 
witness,  had  frequently  maintained  that  many  of  his  bodily 
ailments  were  inflicted  on  him  solely  by  the  devil's  hatred. 

Satan  is  a  great  foe  of  marriage  and  the  blessing  of  children. 
"  This  is  why  you  find  he  has  so  many  malicious  tricks  and  ways 
of  frightening  women  who  are  with  child,  and  causes  such  mis- 
fortune, cunning,  murder,  etc."11  "Satan  bitterly  hates 
matrimony,"  he  says  in  1537,12and, in  1540,  "he  has  great  power 
in  matrimonial  affairs,  for  unless  God  were  to  stand  by  us  how 
could  the  children  grow  up?"13  In  matrimonial  disputes  "the 
devil  shows  his  finger  "  ;  the  Pope  gets  along  easily,  "  he  simply 
dissolves  all  marriages  "  ;  but  we,  "  on  account  of  the  conten- 
tions instigated  by  the  devil,"  must  have  "  people  who  can  give 

Not  him  alone  but  many  others  had  the  devil  affrighted  by  the 
"  noisy  spirits."15  These  noisy  spirits  were,  however,  far  more 
numerous  before  the  coming  of  the  Evangel.  They  were  looked 
upon,  quite  wrongly,  as  the  souls  of  the  dead,  and  Masses  and 
prayers  were  said  and  good  works  done  to  lay  them  to  rest  ;16 

1  lb.,  p'.  402  :    "  dixit  de  machinis  bellicis  et  bombardis,"  etc.  (1537). 

2  "  Werke,"  Erl.  ed.,  60,  p.  23. 

3  Mathesius,  "  Tischreden,"  p.  262  (1542-43). 

4  lb.,  p.  380  (1536). 

5  lb.,  "  Werke,"  Erl.  ed.,  32,  p.  291 :  "  We  see  how  the  milk  thieves 
and  other  witches  often  do  great  mischief  "  (1543).  Cp.  Lauterbach, 
"  Tagebuch,"  p.  121. 

6  Schlaginhaufen,  "  Aufzeichn.,"  p.  117  (1532). 

7  "  Werke,"  Erl.  ed.,  59,  p.  304.  8  lb.,  60,  p.  73. 
9  Mathesius,  "  Tischreden,"  p.  322  (1543).          10  lb.,  p.  412  f. 

11  "  Werke,"  Weim.  ed.,  24,  p.  130  ;   Erl.  ed.,  182,  p.  70  (1530). 

12  Mathesius,  "  Tischreden,"  p.  395  f.  (1537).        13  lb.,  p.  198  (1540). 
14  lb.,  p.  240.  15  "  Werke,"  Erl.  ed.,  60,  p.  70. 

16  lb.,  Weim.  ed.,  10,  1,  1,  p.  585  ;   Erl.  ed.  102,  p.  354. 


but  now  "  you  know  very  well  who  causes  this  ;  you  know  it  is 
the  devil  ;  he  must  not  be  exorcised,1  rather  "  we  must  despise 
him  and  waken  our  holy  faith  against  him  ;2  we  must  be  willing 
to  abide  the  "  spooks  and  spirits  "  calmly  and  with  faith  if  God 
permits  them  to  "  exercise  their  wantonness  on  us  "  and  "  to 
affright  us."3  Nevertheless,  as  he  adds  with  much  truth,  "we 
must  not  be  too  ready  to  give  credence  to  everyone,  for  many 
people  are  given  to  inventing  such  things."4 

At  the  present  time  the  noisy  spirits  are  not  so  noticeable  ; 
"  among  us  they  have  thinned  "  ;5  the  chief  reason  is,  that  the 
devils  now  prefer  the  company  of  the  heretics,  anabaptists  and 
fanatics  ;6  for  Satan  "  enters  into  men,  for  instance  into  the 
heretics  and  fanatics,  into  Miinzer  and  his  ilk,  also  into  the 
usurers  and  others  "  ;7  "  the  fanatic  spirits  are  greatly  on  the 
increase."8  The  false  teachers  prove  by  their  devilish  speech 
how  greatly  the  devil,  "  clever  and  dangerous  trickster  that  he 
is,"  "  can  deceive  the  hearts  and  consciences  of  men  and  hold 
them  captive  in  his  craze."  "  What  is  nothing  but  lies,  idle 
error  and  gruesome  darkness,  that  they  take  to  be  the  pure, 
unvarnished  truth  !  "9 

If  the  devil  can  thus  deceive  men's  minds,  surely  it  is  far  easier 
for  him  to  bewitch  their  bodily  senses.  "  He  can  hoax  and  cheat 
all  the  senses,"10  so  that  a  man  thinks  he  sees  something  that  he 
can't  see,  or  hears  what  isn't,  for  instance,  "thunder,  pipes  or 
bugle-calls."  Luther  fancies  he  finds  an  allusion  to  something  of 
the  sort  in  the  words  of  Paul  to  the  Galatians  iii.  1  :  "  Who  hath 
bewitched  you  before  whose  eyes  Jesus  Christ  hath  been  set 
forth  [that  you  should  not  obey  the  truth]  ?  "1]  Children  can  be 
bewitched  by  the  evil  eye  of  one  who  is  under  a  spell,  and  Jerome 
was  wrong  when  he  questioned  whether  the  illness  of  children  in 
a  decline  was  really  due  to  the  evil  eye.12  It  is  certain  that  "  by 
his  great  power  the  devil  is  able  to  blind  our  eyes  and  our  souls," 
as  he  did  in  the  case  of  the  woman  who  thought  she  was  wearing 
a  crown,  whereas  it  was  simply  "cow  dung."13  He  tells  how,  in 
Thuringia,  eight  hares  were  trapped,  which,  during  the  night, 

1  lb.,  Erl.  ed.,  60,  p.  70.  Cp.  p.  31  and  Weim.  ed.,  10,  1,  1,  p.  585  ; 
Erl.  ed.,  102,  p.  354.  2  lb.,  Erl.  ed.,  60,  p.  63. 

3  lb.,  Weim.  ed.,  10,  1,  1,  p.  585  ;  Erl.  ed.,  102,  p.  354. 

4  lb.,  Erl.  ed.,  60,  p.  63.  5  lb.,  59,  p.  348.  6  lb. 
7  lb.,  60,  p.  70.                               8  lb.,  59,  p.  348. 

9  lb.,  Weim.  ed.,  40,  1,  p.  316  ;  Irmischer,  1,  p.  279,  in  the  fuller 
Commentary  on  Galatians  (1535).  Cp.  Mathesius,  "  Tischreden," 
p.  357  :  "  In  Antinomis  furit  Sathan  "  (1539).  lb.,  p.  206  :  "  Ana- 
baptistce  non  intelligunt  iram  Dei,  sic  exccecantur  a  diabolo  ;  quare  non 
anguntur,  ut  sancti,  qui  hcec  omnia  sentiunt  ;  diabolus  enim  ipsorum  aures 
et  animos  tenet  occupatos,"  etc.  (1540). 

10  "  Werke,"  Weim.  ed.,  40,  1,  p.  316  ;  Irmischer,  1,  p.  279.        ll  lb. 

12  lb.,  Weim.  ed.,  2,  p.  505  f.  ;  Irmischer,  3,  p.  251,  in  the  first 
Commentary  on  Galatians. 

13  Mathesius,  "  Tischreden,"  p.  97  (1540).  Cp.  "Werke,"  Weim.  ed., 
1,  p.  409  ;  "Opp.  lat.  exeg.,"  12,  p.  23,  in  the  Exposition  of  the  Ten 
Commandments,  1518. 


were  changed  into  horses'  heads,  such  as  we  find  lying  on  the 
carrion  heap."1  Had  not  St.  Macarius  by  his  prayers  dispelled 
the  Satanic  delusion  by  which  a  girl  had  been  changed  into  a 
cow  in  the  presence  of  many  persons,  including  her  own  parents  ? 
The  distressed  parents  brought  their  daughter  in  the  semblance 
of  a  cow  to  Macarius  "  in  order  that  she  might  recover  her  human 
shape,"  and  "  the  Lord  did  in  point  of  fact  dissolve  the  spell 
whereby  men's  senses  had  been  misled."  Luther  several  times 
relates  this  incident,  both  in  conversation  and  in  writing. 2 

There  is  certainly  no  lack  of  marvellous  tales  of  devils 
either  in  his  works  or  in  his  Table-Talk.3 

The  toils  of  the  sorcerer  are  everywhere.  Magic  may 
prove  most  troublesome  in  married  life,  more  particularly 
where  true  faith  is  absent  ;  for,  as  he  told  the  people  in  a 
sermon  on  May  8,  1524,  "  conjugal  impotence  is  sometimes 
produced  by  the  devil,  by  means  of  the  Black  Art ;  in  the 
case  of  [true]  Christians,  however,  this  cannot  happen."4 

On  the  Abode  of  the  Devil ;   his  Shapes  and  Kinds 

It  is  worth  while  to  glance  at  what  Luther  says  of  the 
dwelling-places  of  the  devil,  the  different  shapes  he  is  wont 
to  assume,  and  the  various  categories  into  which  demons 
may  be  classed. 

First,  as  to  his  abode.  In  a  sermon  recently  published,  and 
dating  from  June  13,  1529,  Luther  says  :  "  The  devil  inhabits 
the  forests,  the  thickets,  and  the  waters,  and  insinuates  himself 
amongst  us  everywhere  in  order  to  destroy  us  ;  sleep  he  never 
does."  Preaching  in  the  hot  weather,  he  warns  his  hearers 
against  the  cool  waters  in  which  the  devil  lurks  :  "Be  careful 
about  bathing  in  the  cold  water.  .  .  .  Every  year  we  hear  of 
people  being  drowned  [by  the  devil]  through  bathing  in  the 

In  another  sermon  incorporated  in  the  Church-postils  he 
explains  how  in  countries  like  ours,  "  which  are  well  watered," 

1  "  Werke,"  Erl.  ed.,  59,  p.  321. 

2  lb.,  Weim.  ed.,  40,  1,  pp.  315,  317,  319  ;  Irmischer,  1,  pp.  278,  280, 
283  ;  Erl.  ed.,  49,  p.  19,  in  the  Exposition  of  St.  John  xiv.-xvi.  Erl.  ed., 
59,  p.  335. 

3  Cp.,  for  instance,  Lauterbach,  "  Tagebuch,"  pp.  55,  111.  Mathesius, 
"  Tischreden,"  pp.  97,  130,  174,  198,  279,  380,  436.  "  Werke," 
Erl.  ed.,  59,  pp.  317,  320-323  ;   60,  pp.  24,  27,  57,  63,  71,  etc. 

4  "  Werke,"  Weim.  ed.,  15,  p.  560. 

5  lb.,  29,  p.  401.  Sermon  of  1529.  Similarly  in  the  sermon  of 
July  2,  1536,  ib.,  41,  p.  633.  Cp.  N.  Paulus,  "  Hexenwahn  "  (see  above, 
p.  278,  n.  1),  p.  31. 


the  devils  are  fond  of  infesting  the  waters  and  the  swamps; 
they  sometimes  drown  those  who  venture  there  to  bathe  or  even 
to  walk.  Item,  in  some  places  Naiades  are  to  be  met  with  who 
entice  the  children  to  the  water's  edge,  drag  them  in  and  drown 
them  :  all  these  are  devils. x  Such  devils  can  commit  fornication 
with  the  maidens,  and  "  are  able  to  beget  children  which  are 
simply  devils  "  ;2  for  the  devil  will  often  drag  a  girl  into  the  water, 
get  her  with  child  and  keep  her  by  him  until  she  has  borne  her 
baby  ;  he  then  lays  these  children  in  other  people's  cradles, 
removing  the  real  children  and  carrying  them  off.3 

Elsewhere  the  devils  prefer  "  bare  and  desolate  regions," 
"woods  and  wildernesses."4  "Some  are  to  be  found  in  the 
thick  black  clouds,  these  cause  hailstorms,  thunder  and  lightning, 
and  poison  the  air,  the  pastures,  etc."  Hence  "  philosophi  " 
ought  not  to  go  on  explaining  these  phenomena  as  though  they 
were  natural.6  Further,  the  devil  has  a  favourite  dwelling-place 
deep  down  in  the  earth,  in  the  mines,  where  he  "  pesters  and 
deceives  people,"  showing  them  for  instance  what  appears  to  be 
"  solid  silver,  whereas  it  is  nothing  of  the  kind."6  "  Satan  hides 
himself  in  the  apes  and  long- tailed  monkeys,"  who  lie  in  wait 
for  men  and  with  whom  it  is  wrong  to  play.7  That  he  inhabits 
these  creatures,  and  also  the  parrots,  is  pfain  from  their  skill  in 
imitating  human  beings.8 

In  some  countries  many  more  devils  are  to  be  found  than  in 
others.  "  There  are  many  evil  spirits  in  Prussia  and  also  in 
Pilappen  [Lapland]."  In  Switzerland  the  devils  make  a  "  fright- 
ful to-do  "  in  the  "  Pilatus  tarn  not  far  from  Lucerne  "  ;  in 
Saxony,  "  in  the  Poltersberg  tarn,"  things  are  almost  as  bad,  for 
if  a  stone  be  thrown  in,  it  arouses  a  "  great  tempest."9  "  Damp 
and  stuffy  places  "  are  however  the  devils'  favourite  resort.10  He 
was  firmly  convinced  that  in  the  moist  and  swampy  districts  of 
Saxony  all  the  devils  "  that  Christ  drove  out  of  the  swine  in 
Jerusalem  and  Judaea  had  congregated  "  ;  "so  much  thieving, 
sorcery  and  pilfering  goes  on  that  the  Evil  One  must  indeed  be 
present  in  person."11  The  fact  of  so  many  devils  inhabiting 
Saxony  was  perhaps  the  reason,  so  he  adds  quaintly  enough, 
"  why  the  Evangel  had  to  be  preached  there,  i.e.  that  they  might 
be  chased  away."  It  was  for  this  reason,  so  he  repeats,  "  that 
Christ  came  amongst  the  Wends  [Prussians],  the  worst  of  all 
the  nations,  in  order  to  destroy  the  work  of  Satan  and  to  drive 
out  the  devils  who  there  abide  among  the  peasants  and  towns- 

1  "  Werke,"  Erl.  ed.,  II2,  p.  136.     Sermon  on  Oculi  Sunday. 

2  Mathesius,  "  Aufzeichn.,"  p.  248. 

3  "  Werke,"  Erl.  ed.,  60,  p.  22.    Cp.  p.  38  f. 

4  lb.,  IF,  p.  136.  5  lb.,  59,  p.  287.  6  lb.,  p.  324. 

7  Lauterbach,  "  Tagebuch,"  p.  110.  "  Colloq.,"  ed.  Bindseil,  2, 
p.  108. 

8  Mathesius,  "  Tischreden,"  p.  179  ;    "  Aufzeichn.,"  pp.  87,  127. 

9  "  Werke,"  Erl.  ed.,  60,  p.  13. 

10  lb.,  59,  p.  287.  There  ever  was  a  widespread  tendency  to  connect 
the  Evil  One  with  the  water. 

11  Mathesius,  "Tischreden,"  p.  380  (1536). 


people."1  That  he  was  disposed  to  believe  that  a  number,  by  no 
means  insignificant,  of  devils  could  assemble  in  one  place  is  plain 
from  several  statements  such  as,  that  at  the  Wartburg  he  him- 
self had  been  plagued  by  "a  thousand  devils,"  that  at  Augsburg 
every  bishop  had  brought  as  many  devils  with  him  to  the  Diet 
as  a  dog  has  fleas  in  hot  weather,  and,  finally,  that  at  Worms 
their  number  was  probably  not  far  short  of  the  tiles  on  the  roofs. 

The  forms  the  devil  assumes  when  he  appears  to  men  are  very 
varied  ;    to  this  the  accounts  sufficiently  bear  witness. 

He  appeared  as  a  goat, 2  and  often  as  a  dog  ; 3  he  tormented  a 
sick  woman  in  the  shape  of  a  calf  from  which  Luther  set  her  free 
— at  least  for  one  night.4  He  is  fond  of  changing  himself  into 
cats  and  other  animals,  foxes,  hares,  etc.,  "  without,  however, 
assuming  greater  powers  than  are  possessed  by  such  animals."5 
The  semblance  of  the  serpent  is  naturally  very  dear  to  the  devil. 
To  a  sick  girl  at  Wittenberg  with  whom  Luther  happened  to  be, 
he  appeared  under  the  form  of  Christ,  but  afterwards  transformed 
himself  into  a  serpent  and  bit  the  girl's  ear  till  the  blood  came.6 
The  devil  comes  as  Christ  or  as  a  good  angel,  so  as  to  be  the  better 
able  to  tempt  people.  He  has  been  seen  and  heard  under  the  guise 
of  a  hermit,  of  a  holy  monk,  and  even,  so  the  tale  runs,  of  a  preacher ; 
the  latter  had  "  preached  so  earnestly  that  the  whole  church  was 
reduced  to  tears  "  ;  whereupon  he  showed  himself  as  the  devil  ; 
but  "  whether  this  story  be  true  or  not,  I  leave  you  to  decide."7 
The  form  of  a  satyr  suits  him  better,  what  we  now  call  a  hob- 
goblin ;  in  this  shape  he  "  frequently  appeared  to  the  heathen  in 
order  to  strengthen  them  in  their  idolatry."8  A  prettier  make 
under  which  he  appears  is  that  of  the  "  brownie  "  ;  it  was  in  this 
guise  that  he  was  wont  to  sit  on  a  clean  corner  of  the  hearthstone 
beside  a  maid  who  had  strangled  her  baby. 9  From  the  behaviour 
of  the  devils  we  may  infer  that,  "  so  far  they  are  not  undergoing 
any  punishment  though  they  have  already  been  sentenced,  for 
were  they  being  punished  they  would  not  play  so  many  roguish 

Amongst  the  different  kinds  of  devils  he  enumerates,  using 
names  which  recall  the  humorous  ones  common  in  the  old  folk- 
lore of  Germany,  are  not  merely  the  stupid,  the  playful,  the  mali- 
cious and  the  murderous  fiends,  but  also  the  more  sightly  ones,11 

1  76.,  p.  118  (1540). 

2  "  Werke,"  Erl.  ed.,  59,  p.  340.  3  lb.,  60,  pp.  64,  66. 

4  lb.,  59,  p.  138. 

5  Mathesius,  "  Tischreden,"  p.  129  (1540). 

6  "  Werke,"  Erl.  ed.,  58,  p.  129.  The  account  assures  us  that  he 
claimed  to  have  seen  the  apparition  himself. 

7  lb.,  31,  p.  363. 

8  "  Werke,"  Weim.  ed.,  25,  p.  140,  in  the  shorter  Exposition  of 
Isaias  iii.  21. 

9  "  Werke,"  Erl.  ed.,  60,  p.  71. 

10  Mathesius,  "Tischreden,"  p.  300  (1542-44). 
"  "  Werke,"  Erl.  ed.,  60,  p.  73. 


viz.  the  familiar  and  friendly  demons  ;  then  again  there  are  the 
childish  little  devils  who  allure  to  unchastity  and  so  forth  though 
not  to  unbelief  or  despair  like  the  more  dangerous  ones.1  He  is 
familiar  with  angelic,  shining,  white  and  holy  devils,  i.e.  who 
pretend  to  be  such,  also  with  black  devils  and  the  "  supreme 
majestic  devil."  The  majestic  devil  wants  to  be  worshipped  like 
God,  and,  in  this,  being  "so  quick-witted,"  he  actually  succeeded 
in  the  ages  before  Luther's  day,  for  "  the  Pope  worshipped  him."2 
The  devil  repaid  the  Pope  by  bewitching  the  world  in  his  favour  ; 
he  brought  him  a  large  following  and  wrought  much  harm  by 
means  "  of  lies  and  magic,"  doing  on  a  vast  scale  what  the 
"  witches  "  do  in  a  smaller  way.3 

There  are  further,  as  Luther  jestingly  explains,  house-devils, 
Court-devils  and  church-devils  ;  of  these  "  the  last  are  the  worst." 4 
"  Boundless  is  the  devils'  power,"  he  says  elsewhere,  "  and  count- 
less their  number  ;  nor  are  they  all  childish  little  devils,  but 
great  national  devils,  devils  of  the  sovereigns,  devils  of  the  Church, 
who,  with  their  five  thousand  years'  experience,  have  grown  very 
knowing  ...  in  fact,  far  too  cunning  for  us  in  these  latter  days."5 
"  Satan  knows  his  business  and  no  one  but  Jesus  Christ  can  cope 
with  him."6  Very  dangerous  indeed  are  the  Court-devils,  who 
"never  rest,"  but  "busy  themselves  at  Court,  and  work  all  the 
mischief  in  the  councils  of  the  kings  and  rulers,  thwarting  all 
that  is  good  ;  for  the  devil  has  some  fine  rakehells  at  Court."7 
As  for  the  noisy  devils,  they  had  troubled  him  even  in  his  youth.8 

The  Papists  have  their  own  devils  who  work  supposed  miracles 
on  their  behalf,  for  the  wonders  which  occur  amongst  them  at  the 
places  of  pilgrimage  or  elsewhere  in  answer  to  their  prayers  are 
not  real  miracles  but  devil's  make-believe.  In  fact,  Satan  fre- 
quently makes  a  person  appear  ill,  and,  then,  by  releasing  him 
from  the  spell,  cures  him  again.9 

The  above  ideas  Luther  had  to  a  large  extent  borrowed 
from  the  past,  indeed  we  may  say  that  the  gist  of  his  fancies 
concerning  the  devil  was  but  part  of  the  great  legacy  of 
credulity,  folk-lore  and  the  mistaken  surmises  of  theologians 
handed  down  verbally  and  in  writing  from  the  Middle  Ages. 
Only  an  age-long  accumulation  of  prejudice,  rife  particu- 
larly among  the  Saxon  people,  can  explain  Luther's  rooted 
attachment  to  such  a  congeries  of  wild  fancies. 

1  76.,  59,  p.  294  ;  cp.  60,  p.  123.  "  Colloq.,"  ed.  Bindseil,  1,  pp.  235, 
318.  For  an  explanation  of  the  word  here  used  see  Forstemann, 
"  Tischreden,"  3,  p.  132,  n.  3. 

2  "  Werke,"  Erl.  ed.,  192,  p.  281  f. 

3  lb.,  32,  p.  291  in  "  Vom  Schem  Hamphoras,"  1543. 

4  Mathesius,  "Tischreden,"  p.  258  (1542-43). 

5  "  Colloq.,"  ed.  Bindseil,  1,  p.  208.    *  6  lb.,  p.  218. 

7  "  Werke,"  Erl.  ed.,  46,  p.  211  f.,  in  the  Exposition  of  John  i.  and  ii. 
(1537-38).  8  lb.,  60,  p.  70. 

9  "  Werke,"  Weim.  ed.,  40,  1,  p.  315  ;   Irmischer,  1,  p.  277  sq. 


Assisted  by  the  credulity  of  Melanchthon  and  other  of  his 
associates  Luther  not  only  added  to  the  number  of  such 
ideas,  but,  thanks  to  his  gift  of  vivid  portraiture,  made  them 
far  more  strong  and  life-like  than  before.  Through  his  widely- 
read  works  he  introduced  them  into  circles  in  which  they 
were  as  yet  scarcely  known,  and,  in  particular,  established 
them  firmly  in  the  Lutheran  world  for  many  an  age  to  come. 

The  Devil  and  the  Witches 

"It  is  quite  certain,"  says  Paulus  in  his  recent  critical 
study  of  the  history  of  witchcraft,  "  that  Luther  in  his  ideas 
on  witchcraft  was  swayed  by  mediaeval  opinion."  "  In 
many  directions  the  innovators  in  the  16th  century  shook 
off  the  yoke  of  the  Middle  Ages  ;  why  then  did  they,  hold 
fast  to  the  belief  in  witches  ?  Why  did  Luther  and  many 
of  his  followers  even  outstrip  the  Middle  Ages  in  the  stress 
they  laid  on  the  work  of  the  devil  ?  "x 

Paulus  here  touches  upon  a  question  which  the  Protestant 
historian,  Walter  Kohler,  had  already  raised,  viz.  :  "Is  it 
possible  to  explain  the  Reformers'  attachment  to  the  belief  in 
witchcraft  simply  on  the  score  that  they  received  it  from  the 
Middle  Ages  ?  How  did  they  treat  mediaeval  tradition  in  other 
matters  ?    Why  then  was  their  attitude  different  here  ?  "2 

G.  Steinhausen,  in  his  "  Geschichte  der  deutschen  Kultur," 
writes  :  "  No  one  ever  insisted  more  strongly  than  Luther  on 
his  role  [the  devil's] ;  he  was  simply  carried  away  by  the  idea.  .  .  . 
Though  in  his  words  and  the  stories  he  tells  of  the  devil  he  speaks 
the  language  of  the  populace,  yet  the  way  in  which  he  weaves 
diabolical  combats  and  temptations  into  man's  whole  life  is  both 
new  and  unfortunate.  Every  misfortune,  war  and  tempest, 
every  sickness,  plague,  crime  and  deformity  emanates  from  the 
Evil  One."8 

Some  of  what  Luther  borrowed  from  the  beliefs  of  his  own 
day  goes  back  to  pre-Christian  times.  The  belief  in  witches 
comprised  much  heathen  tradition  too  deeply  rooted  for  the  early 
missionaries  to  eradicate.  Moreover,  certain  statements  of  olden 
ecclesiastical  writers  incautiously  exploited  enabled  even  the 
false  notions  of  the  ancient  Graeco-Roman  world  to  become  also 
current.  Fear  of  hidden,  dangerous  forces,  indiscriminating  repe- 
tition of  alleged  incidents  from  the  unseen,  the  ill-advised  dis- 
cussions of  certain  theologians  and  thoughtless  sermons  of  popu- 
lar orators,  all  these  causes  and  others  contributed  to  produce 

1  "  Hexenwahn  "  (see  above,  p.  278,  n.  1),  pp.  45,  67. 

2  "  Theol.  Literaturztng.,"  1909,  p.  147.    Paulus,  ib.,  p.  46. 

3  Leipzig,  1904,  p.  518.     Cp.  Paulus,  ib.,  pp.  1-10. 

v. — u 


the  crass  belief  in  witches  as  it  existed  even  before  Luther's  day 
at  the  close  of  the  Middle  Ages,  and  such  as  we  find  it,  for  instance, 
in  the  sermons  of  Geiler  von  Kaysersberg. 

The  famous  Strasburg  preacher  not  only  accepted  it  as  an 
undoubted  fact,  that  witches  were  able  with  the  devil's  help  to 
do  all  kinds  of  astounding  deeds,  but  he  also  takes  for  granted 
the  possibility  of  their  making  occasional  aerial  trips,  though  it 
is  true  he  dismisses  the  nocturnal  excursions  of  the  women  with 
Diana,  Venus  and  Herodias  as  mere  diabolical  delusion.  He 
himself  never  formally  demanded  the  death-penalty  for  witches, 
but  it  may  be  inferred  that  he  quite  countenanced  the  severe 
treatment  advocated  in  the  "  Witches'  Hammer."  In  his  remarks 
on  witches  he  follows  partly  Martin  Plantsch,  the  Tubingen  priest 
and  University  professor,  partly,  and  still  more  closely,  the 
"  Formicarius "  of  the  learned  Dominican  Johannes  Nider 

Concerning  the  witches  and  their  ways  Luther's  works 
contain  an  extraordinary  wealth  of  information. 

In  the  sermons  he  delivered  on  the  Ten  Commandments 
as  early  as  1516  and  1517,  and  which,  in  1518,  he  published 
in  book  form,2  he  took  over  an  abundance  of  superstition 
from  the  beliefs  current  amongst  the  people,  and  from  such 
writers  as  Geiler.  In  1518  and  1519  were  published  no  less 
than  five  editions  in  Latin  of  the  sermons  on  the  Decalogue  ; 
the  book  was  frequently  reprinted  separately  and  soon  made 
its  appearance  in  Latin  in  some  collections  of  Luther's 
writings  ;  later  on  it  figures  in  the  complete  Latin  editions 
of  his  works  ;  six  German  editions  of  it  had  appeared  up  to 
1520  and  it  is  also  comprised  in  the  German  collections  of 
his  works.  In  his  old  age,  when  the  "  evils  of  sorcery  seemed 
to  be  gaining  ground  anew,"  he  deemed  it  "  necessary,"  as 
he  said,3  "  to  bring  out  the  book  once  more  with  his  own 
hand  "  ;  certain  tales,  amongst  which  he  instances  one 
concerning  the  devil's  cats  and  a  young  man,  might  serve  to 
demonstrate  "  the  power  and  malice  of  Satan  "  to  all  the 
world.  One  cannot  but  regard  it  as  a  mistake  on  Luther's 
part,  when,  in  his  sermons  on  the  Ten  Commandments,  he 
takes  his  hearers  and  readers  into  the  details  of  the  magic 

1  Cp.  Paulus,  ib.,  pp.  1-19. 

2  "  Werke,"  Weim.  ed.,  1,  p.  398  ff.  ;  "  Opp.  lat.  exeg.,"  12, 
p.  3  sqq. 

3  Mathesius,  "  Tischreden,"  p.  129  (1540)  :  "  hoc  malum  (sagarum) 
invalescit  iterum."  In  1519  he  had  lamented  that  "  this  evil  is  notice- 
ably on  the  increase."  "  Werke,"  Weim.  ed.,  2,  p.  590  ;  Irmiseher,  3, 
p.  426,  first  Commentary  on  Galatians. 


and  work  of  the  witches,  though  at  the  same  time  emphasis- 
ing very  strongly  the  unlawfulness  of  holding  any  com- 
munication with  Satan.  This  stricture  tells,  however,  as 
much  against  many  a  Catholic  writer  of  that  day. 

It  is  in  his  commentary  on  the  1st  Commandment  that  he  gives 
us  a  first  glimpse  into  the  world  of  witches  which  later  was  to 
engross  his  attention  even  more. 

He  is  anxious  to  bring  home  to  the  "  weaklings  "  how  one  can 
sin  against  the  1st  Commandment.1  He  therefore  enumerates 
all  the  darkest  deeds  of  human  superstition  ;  of  their  reality  he 
was  firmly  convinced,  and  only  seldom  does  he  speak  merely  of 
their  "  possibility,"  or  say,  "  it  is  believed  "  that  this  or  that  took 
place.  He  also  divides  into  groups  the  people  who  sin  against 
the  virtue  of  Divine  love,  doing  so  according  to  their  age,  and 
somewhat  on  the  lines  of  a  Catechism,  in  order  that  "  the  facts 
may  be  more  easily  borne  in  mind." 

"  The  third  group,"  he  says,  "  is  that  of  the  old  women,  etc." 
"  By